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For those of us who rode as children, I’m sure there was a time where we loved the idea of being a jockey especially with films like ‘Racing Stripes’ which gives the impression that anyone can be a jockey and win top races. Now that we have grown up, most of you, like me, have realised that racing is very dangerous and really scary and couldn’t imagine ourselves ever finding the courage and motivation to get there.
When I was in the middle of my A levels, I had to start thinking about what I was going to do once I had finished. Although I knew I wanted to go to University, I also seriously considered applying to a racing school to get my jockey license. I did all my research and decided it was something I really wanted to try. However, my biggest issue at the time was weight. I have never been big but at the age of 16/17, I probably weighed between 10-11 stone, which was fine as I am 5”7. However, for racing school you had to be 9 ½ stone or less. I had a long think about it and eventually decided that I couldn’t lose that weight and enjoy things I love, such as going out for dinner or a few drinks. I therefore decided to go to University as planned and see how I felt afterwards. I now know that I really do not want to be a jockey. I am not that brave anymore!
I have a lot of respect for jockeys. They must have amazing self-discipline to be able to keep themselves as light as possible while also being extremely fit. When I think about jockey weight, I am always reminded of a scene from the film ‘Seabiscuit’ where the jockey has tiny portions at meals while he is racing, but as soon as he is injured he has a huge plateful. I feel that, especially for the taller jockeys, keeping their weight down must be a daily battle and it is simply something I could never do. Not only this, but they push their bodies to the extreme. It is not unheard of for them to go for a run or to a sauna before a race to sweat out extra weight. One of my lectures used to race and he told us a story of not being able to see properly because his eyeballs had shrunk from dehydration.
Most jockeys have had to works their butts off to get to where they are today. Many will have spent years as stable lads and lasses, riding the horses out, getting into the good books with their trainers and hoping that they will help them get their license or their first rides in a race. It’s a very hard job to get into. And to reach the top, I think you have to be a bit crazy.
It is an incredibly dangerous, exhausting, thrilling, tiring, rewarding, painful job and I don’t think any normal person can do it. Because of this, I can’t help but have a huge amount of respect for these amazingly brave people!