You’ve watched Hugh Bowman pilot Winx to win after win and have decided you want to follow in his footsteps by becoming a jockey. There’s just one problem …. you aren’t sure how to start.
The first thing to consider is your body type. While there are tall jockeys who have succeeded in the sport, many have had to cut their careers short because of their size. Ideally, you’ll weigh less than 50kg and love working outdoors as well.
“It’s not much good trying to start off if your weight is too heavy because it will only get worse and will be a battle, stature is paramount importance. You are also better to start off at relatively young age. Any sport, people always start off at a relatively young age. The earlier the start the better,” said Hall of Fame jockey-turned-trainer Ron Quinton.
For Quinton, if someone approaches him about becoming a jockey, he has a few questions for them to learn if they are ready for the sacrifices the job will take.
“I’d ask them if they have had any history with horses in general, or whether they’ve just come straight out of school,” he said. “There have been plenty of good jockey who come from no background in racing or riding a horse. If they do have some background of horses, it’s always a positive. You have to work out that it is exactly what you want to do and unless your passionate about it, you won’t make it. You have to sacrifice a bit, it’s a very disciplined lifestyle. Late nights and early mornings don’t mix.”
For Melbourne Cup and Golden Slipper winning jockey Blake Shinn, having experience with horses is important but you need to make sure whoever you work for is willing to teach you.
“[Horse experience] is very important, but you need the right guidance and teacher if you are going to learn. You have to start from the bottom and work your way up,” he said. “Do not go into it half-hearted. Don’t waste your time unless you are really sure.”
For those who want to work as a jockey, you’ll work your way toward a Certificate IV in Racing (Apprentice Jockey) through a state’s racing organization such as Racing New South Wales or Racing Victoria.
If you want to become an apprentice but have no practical experience, multiple states have classes you can take.
In New South Wales, a partnership with TAFE NSW known as the Australian Racing and Equine Academy (AREA) is available. Courses are general six months or a year long and can be combined with working with a trainer or taken full time and are open to anyone wanting to enter the industry.
In Victoria, Racing Victoria also offers numerous classes through Myskills that will prepare you to enter its Apprentice Jockey course. As with the AREAVarying in duration, if you decide being a jockey isn’t for you, there are also other racing course
Unless you already work for a licensed trainer, you will be assigned to one and spend four years learning both the practical and theoretical sides of the sport. You will initially be licensed as a stablehand/rider during a probationary period before entering your apprentice indentureship with the trainer. Over the four years you will also attend classes to teach you topics such as health and fitness, communication skills, and race day procedures.
Throughout your indentureship, you’ll be paid a set wage by your trainer with yearly raises and housing pro