Jockey Fitness Explained

Features | 13th January 2022

Anyone who has ever gone near a horse can appreciate how skilful jockeys have to be. Trying to control a strong‐willed thoroughbred takes exceptional talent. But how fit do jockeys have to be? After all, the horses do most of the work, don’t they?

Not a bit of it. It’s a partnership between horse and rider. If either is lacking in fitness then that partnership is not going to perform to its full capabilities and jockeys have to be among the fittest sportsmen and women.

If you don’t believe it just take a look at the tests they have to complete before being let anywhere near a horse race.

Any wannabee jockeys have to pass a fitness examination before they are even considered suitable to attend one of the country’s racing schools.

Prospective professional riders have to reach 70 per cent to pass. Amateur jockeys and anyone wanting to ride in a charity race will need to achieve 65 per cent.

Lower Body

The legs and lower‐body strength is vital to a riders’ fitness and crucial to the balance needed to be a successful jockey.

It is tested by facing away from the wall in a sitting position with the person leaning on a gym exercise ball. They then need to do 20 squat repetitions, rolling the ball up and down the wall with their back pressed against it.

Holding a 5kg weight to their chest, jockeys will then be asked to hold the sitting position for as long as possible. If they hold it for two minutes that is a 100 per cent pass with one minute counting as 50 per cent.

The legs get a further examination with a wobble cushion exercise. The budding race‐riders have to stand on two wobble cushions – one under each foot – with their knees bent and arms out in front of them.

Holding the position for four minutes counts as a 100 per cent pass. If they can last for two minutes it is a 50 per cent pass.

Upper Body

A jockey has to have excellent upper‐body strength. Whether it’s to settle a keen or horse or ride a finish, it’s is a vital component of a rider’s fitness.

The first test is to hold the press‐up position, with elbows bent at 90 degrees and by the rider’s side, for 90 seconds. That is a 100 per cent pass.

Sitting on a bench with knees at right‐angles, the jockeys have to pull an elastic band, which is secured behind them, until their arms are fully extended, while keeping in time with a metronome. If they achieve this for the full two minutes they get a 100 per cent pass.

Core Strength

The first of the core strength exercises also uses a metronome timer. Set at 50 beeps per minute, the jockeys lie on their backs with their arms curled over their shoulders holding on to a solid base.

In time with the beep, they have to raise their feet so they’re pointing at the sky and return to the start position on the next beep.

To achieve a 100 per cent pass they have to keep the exercise going for four minutes.