Horse racing has been a part of our civilization for ages. It brings excitement, hope and inspiration to many countries. This is, in fact, one sport that requires strength and stamina from both rider and the horse. Over the decades, various horse races have dominated the world of horse racing sports and betting because of incredible athletes or hose jockeys who have made themselves a name due to prestigious races. But do you know they have to wear the horse owners’ silks that helps the audience identify the horse during a race? Read below to find out what silks are and interesting horse jockey facts.
What are silks, and why do jockeys wear them?
Silks are the jackets worn by horse jockeys when they go for a race. They are brightly coloured, light weighted and unique. The horse owners usually select a silk colour and design. The silk is then registered by the owner or a syndicate and must not look like any other for the race event. Silks for thoroughbred jockeys are generally made of similar sizes and jockeys wear them over their protective vest. Though, steeplechase and quarter horse jockeys may have silks in various sizes.
Jockeys have to follow whip rules
Although this fact is a bit controversial, horse racing boards and authorities always take care of animal welfare and how jockey’s used their whips. The rules are strict and ones breaking them usually go through severe punishments. For example, a jockey in a flat race cannot use foam saddles or air-cushioned whip that is made of synthetic cloth more than seven times. If done, they may incur a penalty or a suspension for overuse. Furthermore, jockeys are allowed to jump not more than eight times. If a horse does not respond to a whip, then the jockey must consider the horse’s well-being first rather than whipping again and again.
Horse jockeys cannot place a bet
Horse jockeys can participate in a horse race but cannot place bets as it is a major breach of the rules. If found, jockeys can be suspended for a lengthy period or even get their licence cancelled. In Australia, jockeys placing bets are been suspended for mandatory two years. The authorities are very strict about the rules as the jockeys have inside information.
Jockeys do not keep more than 10% of a race
Even though horse jockeys are the ones who risk their life and limb while pairing with a horse, they are not well compensated as athletes in other sports. In jump races where jockeys have to face more risks, they are just paid 8-9 per cent of the prize money. However, some winners and horse owners are generous enough to give jockeys, bonuses and other prizes. You will be surprised to know that with so little earnings, jockeys have to pay the agent’s fees along with other deductions.
Jockey heights can be any but smaller ones are preferred the most
It is not necessary for horse race jockeys to follow a certain height limit compared to other sports. They can participate in a race as long as they are able to ride horses well. But it is found that taller jockeys face difficulties due to their weight, particularly when they are old. Therefore, an ideal jockey height remains anywhere between 4 ft 10 and 5ft 6in. Apart from sizes, jockeys must be strong and sharp to control their ponies.
The tallest jockey had a height of 7ft 7in i.e., 2.31m
Standing 7ft 7in tall, Manute Bol, an NBA player tried his hands at horse racing in a charity race in Indiana. He was recorded as the tallest jockey ever. Another jockey named Stuart Brown who passed away when 43 had a height of 6ft 3in. Yet, he had won many races during his horse racing career.
Although height is not a matter, jockeys must have a prescribed weight
Jockeys weight is determined according to the horse race conditions. The weight can be set by the authorities or when the horse running is handicapped. If the horse falls under the top-rated category, heavy-weight jockeys are allowed to race on them. Similarly, if the jockeys are below the desired weight, they can be disqualified. It is necessary to weigh the jockey, as well as the tack, cloth, and saddle, to determine the exact weight that will be kept on the pony.
Jockey weight limit is different for flat and jumps races
In almost every horse race, flat horse jockeys need to weigh less than those who participate in jump races. Usually, the weight structure for the flat race where there are no obstacles for jumping, jockeys’ weight can be anywhere above 51 and 63.5 kilos. Although small size helps, weights are more important in horse races and for jockeys to have a long-lasting career.
Many jockeys have died of facing life-changing injuries due to horse race
Notwithstanding the very low number of fatalities in the sport of horse racing, there are still some deaths and life-altering injuries that do occur. Whilst protective headgear is a legal requirement for all horse jockeys, over 100 riders in North America have passed away from racing-related accidents since 1950. While much has been done in nations where horse racing is popular, the risks to both humans and animals cannot be completely eliminated. In order to protect the spine, race riding has gradually employed thin body protectors, which horse jockeys often use as a part of their equipment.
There are very less horse jockeys more than 40 years old
Since weight management becomes troublesome after a certain age, many jockeys give up their racing career in the saddle post 40. Any jockey has rarely crossed 50, although you may get notable exceptions in the game. For instance, Bill Shoemaker, an American rider partnered with his final winner at an age of 58. Another British Flat jockey Lester Piggott retired at 54.
Men dominate horse racing sports
Although we do have notable exceptions, the world of horse racing and betting is dominated largely by men. However, female jockeys have gained more attention in recent years. Bryony Frost who won Cheltenham Festival and Lizzie Kelly at Kempton are two outstanding examples. Rachael Blackmore making history in 2021 as the first-ever female winner of the Grand National. But then, these races became famous only because they were the first where females won the race. There are so many where men win and we forget.