Education and Training Requirements

High School

There are no specific educational requirements for becoming a jockey. There are riding schools and the North American Racing Academy, which opened in 2006, but most jockeys get their training by immersing themselves in the world of horse racing and learning the basics while performing support tasks such as exercising and training horses. In high school, your best bet is to get a well-rounded education. Classes in physical education will build your strength and agility, while business courses will give you a general working knowledge of finances and money management—skills you will need when you become a jockey. All professional jockeys must earn a license.

Postsecondary Training

No postsecondary training is required for jockeys, although the North American Racing Academy is now available for those who do wish to pursue this career. Others who are interested in learning more about the care of horses can pursue certificates and degrees in equine management at colleges and universities. One interesting program is the University of Arizona's Race Track Industry Program, which offers an Equine Management Path that prepares students to work in areas dealing with racing and breeding animals. Visit for more information.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

All professional jockeys must be licensed to ride in races. Each state has its own requirements, but includes a minimum age.

Other Requirements

Jockeys must be at least 16 years old. There is no set height or weight requirement, but the majority of jockeys do not weigh more than 125 pounds, many even less, with height (usually around 5 feet tall) or proportionate to their weight.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Becoming a jockey can take several years of hard work. No one decides to become a jockey one day and rides in a professional race the next. For most of its history, there has been no formal training program or career path for jockeys. But as of the 2000s, that status is slowly changing, with the founding of the North American Racing Academy, part of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. Now people interested in this occupation have a place to go to receive more formal and specialized training.

However, typically jockeys start their careers by working for a trainer or horse race farm in the stables. They may work their way up from various positions such as stable hands before being able to ride in a race.

Jockeys must be in excellent physical condition, have a love of horses and racing, and not be afraid to get hurt or fall from a horse. Racing is a dangerous sport, and most jockeys fall often during their careers. It takes a passion for the sport and determination to become a successful jockey.

A jockey should be daring, mentally alert, scrupulously honest, and an excellent judge of pace. Most importantly, a jockey needs to understand and be familiar with horses. It is not enough to be simply a good rider. Part of knowing when to move your horse into position during a race is simply knowing your horse. The best way to get this experience is to spend as much time as possible on and around horses.

Jockeys are outstanding riders. They must be able to cope with a nervous, frightened, or high-spirited horse. And because the weather on a race day is never predictable, jockeys need to be able to "read" the track through a driving rain or on a dry and dusty day.

Finally, jockeys must abide by the rules of the sport, as determined by the racing commission of the county or state in which they are racing. These rules differ from state to state (although an effort is being made by the Association of Racing Commissioners International to standardize the rules), and it is up to the jockeys and their managers to make certain that the jockeys do not violate any of them. For example, a jockey and his or her mount might be disqualified if the jockey wore the wrong silks during the race. The racing commission makes rulings on such things as interference, horse whipping, and proper headgear.