Jockeys are highly trained people who earn their living by riding horses at public race meetings. They are usually paid a set fee for each race as well as a percentage of any stake money that is won.

They ride racehorses during exercise, at race meetings and in barrier trials, on behalf of horse trainers and owners. They may receive instructions from trainers and owners before races, and discuss with them the abilities of each horse and the best tactics to use to win a race.

Jockeys discuss the performances of horses with trainers after races or exercise gallops. Jockeys often study videotapes of races to improve their own performance and to work out the best way to ride certain horses, after discussion with the trainer.

They need to report anything that may have affected the horse’s performance in a race to stewards and other racing authorities and, if necessary, attend stewards’ inquiries regarding the performance of their horses.

To ride in races, jockeys have to be licensed by the Jockey Club of Southern Africa. This means, in effect, that they have to enter into a contract with the Jockey Club of Southern Africa. If they contravene the rules, and the contravention is of a serious nature, jockeys may be penalised by having fines imposed or by being suspended for a number of weeks or even months, which means that they do not earn an income during this period.

Their time is usually split between early morning track work and riding at race meetings. Learner jockeys often live at the stables and may be initially required to perform the same work as stable hands. Most jockeys have to pay careful attention to diet and exercise, as they have to maintain strict control of their weight to ensure that they remain light enough to ride in races.

Since horse racing as a sport generally attracts a great deal of money, skilled jockeys have very high earning potential. The lifestyle is vigorous and mostly outdoors. Jockeys usually assist with horse training and sometimes help with stable duties. They are expected to maintain their own riding equipment, including saddles and boots.

Personal Requirements

  • extremely fit
  • very good eyesight
  • excellent powers of concentration
  • very small and light in weight
  • enjoy working outdoors
  • love horses and an adventurous lifestyle
  • athletic, with a good sense of balance
  • steady nerves and competitive
  • age, size and weight limits apply

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Grade 9 Certificate

What to Study

The South African Jockeys’ Academy offers training with a 3-year diploma in Horsemanship and Stable Management, which involves:

  • practical jockey and horse care training
  • comprehensive educational training including good manners and speech, honesty and loyalty
If you wish to become a jockey you must:
  • be between 14 and 16 years old when entering the Academy
  • apply to the Jockey Club of Southern Africa for selection
  • pass a medical examination
  • fall within the following upper limits of physical statistics:
Boy: 14,5 years; 30 kg; 1,36m; 210mm shoe size
Boy: 15,5 years; 34 kg; 1,40m; 220mm shoe size
Girl: 14,5 years; 41 kg; 1,48m; 220mm shoe size
Girl: 15,5 years 43 Kg 1,52m 230mm shoe size


  • racehorse owners
  • self-employment, with enough capital, can start own stable or act as a trainer for jockeys
Due to the particular physical requirements and the highly specialised nature of the work, there will always be ample employment opportunities for a skilled jockey.

Further Information

South African Jockey Academy
Tel: (031) 769-1103

Western Province
Tel: (021) 552-7268 

Tel: (011) 314-2398

Eastern Cape
Tel: (041) 364-3317

Getting Started

  • take riding lessons and learn as much about horses and caring for them as possible
  • visit racecourses and ask jockeys about their careers
  • find part-time or holiday work as a stable hand to see if you would like this type of work

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