When a horse race comes around, there are rules in place amount how much weight the horses need to carry. In the case of handicap races, the various horses will be asked to carry a different amount depending on their ability. These weights are made public so that everyone knows how much weight the various horses in an event are carrying, but few people talk about the weight of the jockey riding them.
The weight of the jockey is factored into the weight that horses carry in handicap races, but not in other race types. It’s why jockeys tend to be relatively small people, because any advantage that can be gained over competitors will help the horses in the race. How much does the average jockey weigh, though? How is that when compared to the horses that carry the jockeys? We’ll answer those questions and more in this piece.
Obviously there is no hard and fast answer when it comes to the weight of a jockey. Each one will weigh different amounts, though the average weight is between 8 and 9 stone. There is a minimum weight requirement for jockeys in order to make the races as fair as possible, as well as to ensure that jockeys live a healthy-ish lifestyle. After all, it wouldn’t be good for jockeys to essentially starve themselves.
It’s typical for flat racing jockeys to weigh less than their jump racing compatriots, with the former being the ones that come in at around 8 stone and the latter at 9 stone. Different races will have different weight requirements, with limits being typical. The minimum weight of 8 stone has been in place for flat racing since the 1st of January 2013, having been raised by two pounds then.
For most jockeys, of course, getting their weight down is always more challenging that upping their weight. Many will wear all-in-one tracksuits and take a run around the course in order to sweat and shed a vital few pounds before their weigh-in. Even a few pounds off their weight will allow jockeys to meet the weight requirements for a race, so it can be a crucial aspect of their weighing-in.
How Much Does It Matter?
It might seem silly for a jockey to be worrying about a couple of pounds, but the truth is that it can make all the different in a horse race. A jockey could be as little as 5 pounds over the assigned weight and they would be removed from their ride, so it’s vital that they aren’t too heavy heading into a race. It’s therefore not uncommon for jockeys to suffer from eating disorders, which can be a major problem for the industry.
Whilst 5 pounds might not seem like much, it’s worth bearing in mind that in many races that have a specific weight for the horses, fillies and mares are given a 3 pound allowance. If 3 pound is enough to be deemed helpful for a female horse, it can certainly be the difference maker for a jockey. It’s why those that are shorter and thinner will always gain more work than those that are tall and slightly bigger boned.
What Jockeys Eat
There are issues with jockeys being weights that are barely sufficient for their builds, not the least of which is the fact that long periods of fasting can be bad for a person’s mental health. The Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences at John Moores University in Liverpool works closely with the Professional Jockeys Association in order to avoid such things becoming a major problem for the sports people.
The PJA’s website recommends a guide amount of 1,500 calories a day, which contrasts heavily with the 2,000 per day for women and the 2,500 for men that the NHS suggests is sensible. The researchers at John Moores opt for a more tailored approach, investing the likes of a jockey’s Resting Metabolic Rate. If they suggest too little in the way of food intake then it can impact bone, metabolic and brain health.
Jockeys therefore try to eat as little as they can whilst also staying healthy. The likes of eggs, salmon and protein are an important part of their diets. Their food is designed to be tasty but not overly fatty. Obviously it differs from jockey to jockey, as it does with any other people. Some will be able to eat much more and maintain their weight, whilst others will put weight on almost without trying.
Size Compared To Horses
Just as there is no hard and fast rule when it comes to the size of jockeys, so too do horses all differ from one another. There is no set weight for a horse, with the size of the horse in question dictating how much they come in at. Typically, horses come in at between 900 pounds and 1,300 pounds, depending on how big they are.
900 pounds when converted to stone is around 64.2 stone, whilst 1,300 pounds is 92.8 stone. As a consequence, a 9 stone jockey would weigh about 14% of the smaller horse and around 9% of the larger horse. Move that up by a stone and it becomes 15% and 10% respectively, so you can see why a jockey’s weight is so important.