22 Mar Nurturing Talent: 10 Ways to Go Pro On Horseback
The professional equestrian world may look exciting and glamorous, but if you want to make it to the top, prepare yourself for a lot of hard work.
Becoming a professional rider requires commitment and sacrifice, and a determination that few people have. It’s an industry that’s extremely competitive, and you’ll need an element of good fortune to join the elite. However, there are a few things you can do to improve your chances, and ensure you stand out from the crowd of would-be jockeys.
#1: Go to the Races Regularly
If you are a keen rider, the chances are that you spend a lot of your time at the local yard. This gives you great hands-on experience with the horses but if you want to be successful, you’ll need to understand the industry as a whole.
The best way to do this is to visit the races regularly. There are many tracks around the country, large and small. Seeing how the horses and jockeys interact at the races, and the different stages of a race will provide a valuable insight that you won’t get at the yard.
There are day and night races, and they have a very different atmosphere, so it’s advisable to go to both to learn as much as you can. Small tracks also are very different to big horse racing events where the crowds run into tens of thousands. Cheltenham and Ascot are in the top four largest tracks in the UK and the annual festivals held there are very prestigious. Approximately 265,000 and 294,000 attend these festivals respectively, making them two of the most anticipated events on the horse-racing calendar.
Even if Cheltenham and Ascot aren’t local to you, it’s worth travelling to attend the events. Only by being there in person will you be able to fully comprehend how horse racing works at the very top level.
#2: Learn How to Bet
The equestrian industry isn’t just about a love of horses, although many who work in it are passionate about their animals. It’s about earning big money, much of which comes from the bets placed.
If you’ve never bet on the horses before, it’s vital that you learn how it works. It’s a highly complex system with dynamic calculations which are constantly adjusted. Betting punters take horse racing seriously and study form carefully before deciding how to bet. Some of the stakes are enormous, and a horse failing to meet expectations can have big financial implications for the owners.
Signing up to an online bookie is a good start, as it’s an easy way to study the odds. You’ll notice that for big events, there’s a flurry of activity. For example, Ascot and Cheltenham races betting will attract people that don’t bet at any other time of the year. Understanding the peaks and troughs, and the factors that move odds in and out will be imperative to deliver what’s expected as a jockey.
#3: Shadow the Professionals – All of Them
This in-depth knowledge of the equestrian world extends beyond betting. Knowing what happens at a race-track is just part of the overall process. When you’re working in a yard, take every opportunity to shadow professionals that visit. This means everyone from the vet to trainers. Ask questions when you can, and keep your ears open; simply listening to conversations will enable you to learn more about horses which will give you a competitive edge.
#4: Take Riding Lessons
If you have aspirations of being a jockey, you are probably already a competent horse-rider – but don’t assume it’s enough. When you’re racing you’ll need to be perfectly in tune with your horse, and sensitive to their body language. Riding lessons will help you to hone and improve your riding to the standard you’ll need to be taken seriously as a pro.
#5: Don’t Expect Loyalty
You may want to be within the equestrian world because of your love for horses, but make no mistake, it’s a cut-throat industry. Money dominates and that means that there’s no room for loyalty. If a yard gets the option to place “your” horse with a more experienced jockey, you will be moved aside with little warning. You won’t get the chance to ride at big festivals such as Cheltenham and Ascot until you reach the very top echelon. Successful jockeys learn to accept disappointment and move on to the next opportunity – and if you’re determined enough, there WILL be a next time.
#6: Consider an Apprenticeship or Qualification
As you may have realised by now, becoming a jockey isn’t just about your ability to ride horses. Understanding the world of betting, and also every element of equine care is just as essential. Opting for either an apprenticeship or a qualificationat a dedicated equestrian college can set you on the right path. With formal training and knowledge, you will have a head start compared to others who are trying to forge a career as a jockey.
#7: Pick Your Favourite Discipline
There are many different routes to working with horses professionally, and they’re not all about being a flat racer or going over the jumps. Other potential equestrian events include show jumping, dressage, polo or eventing. Each discipline requires a different set of talents and skills so consider which one most appeals to you, and then specialise.
#8: Understand It’s Not All About Riding
You may dream of spending your days on horseback, and it’s true that you’ll certainly be riding regularly. However, whichever discipline you choose to focus on, the riding will only be one element. Working with horses means pitching in to help with their care, including mucking out. Even the top jockeys can be found working in the yard for a couple of hours in the morning – it helps you bond with your horse and it’s a great way to keep fit!
#9: Accept Constructive Criticism
Mistakes cost money, and trainers won’t be shy about letting you know when you’ve done something wrong. Don’t be shy about asking for help or advice, and recognising when you find one horse harder than another. If you make a mistake, you can expect a dressing down but accept the feedback and keep going. You’ll need a thick skin to rise to the top.
#10: Love Horses!
Working with horses means long hours, hard work and a huge amount of competition. To be successful, you’ll need to make personal sacrifices and be prepared to immerse yourself in the job. To do that and be happy, you’ll need to really love horses. If you do, you’ll find it a rewarding career path and your affection for the animals will help you to stand out.