Ride on the Nock; Race on the Job





Generally, jockey is somebody or something rides horses in races of flat or jumping, as a profession or leisure, inside of outside racecourses with different distances.

Besides for thoroughbred or non-thoroughbred, the word “jockey” also applies to camel riders in camel racing.





The word is by origin a diminutive of “jock”, the Northern English or Scots colloquial equivalent of the first name “John”, which is also used generically for “boy, or fellow” (as “Jack”, “Dick”).

Another possible origin is the Gaelic word ‘eachaidhe’, a “horseman”, (pronounced “yachey” in late medieval times, with the “ch” pronounced as in German).

1591 or before, a familiar instance of the use of the word as a name is in “Jockey of Norfolk” in Shakespeare’s Richard III. v. 3, 304.

1670 or before, the word was applied to horse-dealers, postilions, itinerant minstrels and vagabonds.

The current usage which means a person who rides a horse in races was firstly twisted from the origin but popularized thereafter.






Jockeys must be light to ride at the weights which are assigned to their mounts.

There are horse carrying weight limits, that are imposed by racing authorities for races with handicapping or set weight, involving duties of the Handicapper and Clerk of the Scale.

The weight of a jockey usually ranges from 108 to 118 lb (49 to 54 kg).

Though there is no height limit for jockeys, they are usually fairly short due to the weight limits.

Jockeys typically stand around 4 ft 10 in (1.47 m) to 5 ft 6 in (1.68 m).

Weigh-out and weigh-in have their own protocols before and after each race.

Some ponies or horses carried weighs even more than 200 lbs are recorded in racing history.



Jockeys usually start out when they are young, riding work in the morning trackwork for trainers, and entering the riding profession as apprentice jockeys.

An apprentice jockey has a master or mentor, who is usually a former jockey turned trainer.

Apprentice jockey school is another system but just for the preliminary training.

Besides Novice Races, Red Label novice rider or apprentice jockey is allowed to “claim” weight off the horse‘s back until graduated as Black Label qualified jockey.

Traditionally, a jockey could be the owner-rider.

Nowadays, jockeys are normally self employed, nominated by horse trainers to ride their horses in races, for a fee (which is paid regardless of the prize money the horse earns for a race) and a percentage of the purse winnings.

Gentleman rider and amateur jockey has been common before and even after the pre-professional racing era.

Though there may have different sets of rules or opinions upon gender issues, many famous lady jockeys and female jockeys have emerged every now and then.

Jockeys have their own riding forms, styles, tactics and strategies, which could be more than one during their career.



The colors worn by jockeys in races are the registered “colors” and “patterns” of the owner or trainer‘s stable who employs them.

While the term “silks” is used to refer to racing colors, technically “silks” are the white breeches and bib, stock or cravat.

Jockey has equipment or gear such as helmet, gloves, whip, boots, tights, spurs, reins and saddles, etc.



Horse racing is a dangerous and exciting sport where jockeys may incur accidents leading to permanent, debilitating, and even life-threatening injuries.

Eating disorders (such as anorexia) are also very common among jockeys, as they face extreme pressure to maintain unusually low (and specific) weights in a long period.

The pressure to stay light has been blamed in part for jockeys suffering agonies of thirst from dehydration while racing.

Systems of penalty, suspensions or cancellation of licence could be imposed to jockeys who violate any rules or ethics in their racing or non-racing performance and career.



Various awards are given to the excellent jockeys periodically by organizations affiliated with the sport of horse racing in countries throughout the world.

They include Jockey Championship, Hall of Fame, Memorial Award, etc.





Racing modeling on the English Jockey Club spread throughout the world with colonization and expansion.

Historically, although owners used to ride their own animals, the term ‘jockey’ did not infer a rider.

Nowadays, roles and statues are more flexible and diversified while International Jockeys Invitation races are very common and popular.

Therefore, application and implication of the terminology ‘jockey‘ are ambiguously controversial but universally interesting.





1750, English Jockey Club, an organization whose stewards were the central authority for the administration of horse racing in England was founded.


2005-07-13, to replace child jockeys whose use had been deplored by human rights organizations, a camel race in Doha, Qatar for the first time featured robots at the reins. Workers fixed robotic jockeys on the backs of seven camels and raced the machine-mounted animals around a track. Operators controlled the jockeys remotely, signaling them to pull their reins and prod the camels with whips.





jockeys – video showcase

jockeys – photo gallery



Acknowledgment to Mr Stephen Ho Kwok-ying and Mr Donald Tsai for relevant data.





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