Horse & Hound’s race-riding tips

  • Do you think you could make a jockey but aren’t sure what is involved in approaching fences at speed, and the riding skills and fitness required? Find out what some of the key factors to consider are and follow our tips for success.

    To be a jockey…

  • You must be able to adjust your seat.
  • Fitness and core strenght are vital.
  • You must be prepared to work hard including regular gym sessions and using a fitness ball to improve strength.
  • You can’t be too heavy — always a disadvantage in any competition, but particularly so in race-riding.
  • You need the right horse. For most budding jockeys, a schoolmaster is a must.

    The perfect position

  • The perfect race-riding stance is commonly referred to as “the martini glass” position.
  • Your knee should be directly above the point of balance in your foot. If your lower leg is too far back, you are in danger of your body tipping forward and unbalancing the horse.
  • Your back should be flat and your head should be level, still and looking forward. 
  • Hands should be near or over the wither.
  • Foot position in the stirrups — Steve Smith Eccles says: “In my day, nobody rode with just their toe in the stirrup. It’s fashionable for jockeys to do so now, but I still like to teach people to ride with the stirrup on the ball of their foot or, even better, their foot fully in the stirrup.”
  • Flexible knees. Steve adds: “Your knee should be flexible, not stiff, as this is your main shock absorber. Having your back level helps keep your hands in the right place and lowers your centre of gravity.”

    Using the stick

  • While on the ground or riding a mechanical horse, practise switching it from hand to hand.
  • On landing over the last fence, delay using it until the horse is balanced and galloping forwards.
  • Swing the stick several times from the horse’s quarters to its head and back — in rhythm with the stride — before striking the horse.
  • If in doubt leave it out — and push the horse home instead.
  • Stay within British Horseracing Authority regulations (or pay a fine).

    To read the full point-to-point special including a full fixtures list and people and horses to watch this season, see the current issue of H&H (15 November 2012)

    Read all the latest racing news

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