Wednesday, 15 February 2012


 A jockey is an athlete who rides horses in horse racing or steeplechase racing, primarily as a profession. The word 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" (compare "Jack", "Dick"), at least since 1529. 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.
In the 16th and 17th centuries the word was applied to horse-dealers, postilions, itinerant minstrels and vagabonds, and thus frequently bore the meaning of a cunning trickster, a "sharp", whence the verb to jockey, "to outwit", or "to do" a person out of something. The current usage which means a person who rides a horse in races was first seen in 1670.

Jockeys must be light to ride at the weights which are assigned to their mounts. There are horse carrying weight limits, that are set by racing authorities. The Kentucky Derby, for example, has a weight limit of 126 lb (57 kg) including the jockey's equipment. The average weight for a jockey is around 115 lb (52 kg). Despite their light weight, they must be able to control a horse that is moving at 40 mph (64 km/h) and weighs 1,200 lb (540 kg).

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 cut of the purse winnings. In Australia, employment of apprentice jockeys is in terms of indenture to a master (a trainer); and there is a clear employee/employer relationship. When an apprentice jockey finishes his apprenticeship and becomes a "fully fledged jockey", the nature of their employment and insurance requirements change because they are regarded as "freelance", like contractors. Jockeys often cease their riding careers to take up other employment in racing, usually as trainers. In this way the apprenticeship system serves to induct young people into racing employment.
Jockeys usually start out when they are young, riding work in the morning for trainers, and entering the riding profession as an apprentice jockey. It is normally necessary for an apprentice jockey to ride a minimum of about 20 barrier trials successfully before being permitted to commence riding in races. An apprentice jockey is known as a "bug boy" because the asterisk that follows the name in the program looks like a bug. All jockeys must be licensed and usually are not permitted to bet on a race. An apprentice jockey has a master, who is a horse trainer, and also is allowed to "claim" weight off the horse's back (if a horse were to carry 58 kg, and the apprentice was able to claim 3 kg, the horse would only have to carry 55 kg on its back) in some races.[clarification needed] This allowance is adjusted according to the number of winners that the apprentice has ridden. After a 4 year indentured apprenticeship, the apprentice becomes a senior jockey and would usually develop relationships with trainers and individual horses. Sometimes senior jockeys are paid a retainer by an owner which gives the owner the right to insist the jockey rides their horses in races.
Racing modeled on the English Jockey Club spread throughout the world with colonial expansion.

The colours worn by jockeys in races are the registered "colours" of the owner or trainer who employs them. The practice of horsemen wearing colours probably stems from medieval times when jousts were held between knights. However, the origins of racing colours of various patterns may have been influenced by racing held in Italian city communities since medieval times. Such traditional events are still held on town streets and are remarkable for furious riding and the colourful spectacle they offer.
Getting white breeches and bib, stock or cravat known as "silks" is a rite of passage when a jockey is first able to don silken pants and colours in their first race ride, and it has a parallel in how lawyers are spoken of as "taking silk". At one time silks were invariably made of silk, though now synthetics are sometimes used instead. Nevertheless, the silks and their colours are important symbols evoking emotions of loyalty and festivity.

Horse racing is a sport where jockeys may incur permanent, debilitating, and even life-threatening injuries. Chief among them include concussion, bone fractures, arthritis, trampling, and paralysis. Jockey insurance premiums remain among the highest of all professional sports. Between 1993 and 1996, 6,545 injuries occurred during official races for an injury rate of 606 per 1,000 jockey years. In Australia race riding is regarded as being the second most deadly job, after offshore fishing. From 2002 to 2006 five deaths and 861 serious injuries were recorded.
Eating disorders (such as anorexia) are also very common among jockeys, as the athletes face extreme pressure to maintain unusually low (and specific) weights for men, sometimes within a five pound (2.3 kg) margin. The bestselling historical novel Seabiscuit: An American Legend chronicled the eating disorders of jockeys living in the first half of the Twentieth century. As in the cases of champion jockey Kieren Fallon and Robert Winston, the pressure to stay light has been blamed in part for jockeys suffering agonies of thirst from dehydration while racing. Sports Dietitians Australia warns:"Dehydration and energy depletion may compromise concentration and coordination."

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