Do jockeys have a tougher life than other sports players?

November 16, 2021

Jockeys might look the part when they mount their trusty steeds to do battle out on the racecourses, but the general feeling is that being a jockey is no glamorous occupation. At least, it doesn’t carry the high level of prestige that being a soccer player or American footballer does.

The job of a jockey is a dangerous one. Jockeys risk broken bones and, worse still, death by trampling. They have to keep their weight down throughout the season and face potential injuries in the saddle. Hardly anything to make people jealous of them.

What’s life like as a jockey?

When you compare the earnings of a jockey to that of stars in some other sports, they’re small change, despite the intense training they go through and the dieting to which they subject themselves.

Income varies greatly, as they earn riding fees, prize money and, in some cases, money from sponsorship deals, but they can earn anything between $26,983 and $269,845 per year before taxes. Some jockeys have earned more than a million.

Whereas in the NFL, players earn several hundreds of thousands of dollars, even as rookies. An agreement in 2011 guaranteed players at least $480,000 per season, a salary which increases as the player spends more years in the NFL. Players in key positions such as quarterback or running back can command millions.

Then there’s soccer. Cristiano Ronaldo is set to collect $125 million before tax in the 2021/22 season, with $70 million of this coming from his club, Manchester United, and the rest coming from endorsements, partnerships and his CR7 portfolio.

Is the life of a jockey any way like the life of a college footballer?

Life as a college footballer in the US is just as demanding. They must be 100% committed. Training takes place every day and is long, hard, and intense. Even during off-season, college footballers still must train.

Moreover, they still have to be good students and achieve suitable grades. Mentally, being a college footballer is as grueling as being a jockey.

The US, like many other countries enjoys its sports, but sport is local. College football comes into its own in towns, regions or cities that professional football has left behind. Fans don’t have to contend with the fact when watching the game that the players will earn more in a year than they will in a lifetime, either.

College football and other sports are less business-like than professional sports, in which the marketing is slick, and stadiums have corporate boxes. That doesn’t belong in college sports. However, there’s plenty of excitement surrounding the college football betting markets when it comes to who goes on to join an NFL team roster.

Developing players for the professional world

Although there are different ways to forge a path into the NFL, ideally, it’s important to stand out in the sporting arena somehow. One of the main ways to do this is by playing college football, which sets a player up for life in the NFL.

The professional league is different to college football, however, in so far as players fresh from college football come up against players who have more physical ability. It’s a tough transition, but the NFL works with colleges to help them prepare their footballers for the demands of pro football.

The route to becoming a jockey is different. In one of the world’s most passionate nations about horse racing, the UK, jockeys must take a foundation course in how to look after horses. The student works full time as a racing groom and if the trainer considers the groom competent enough to become a jockey, they’ll enter them for a Jockey License Course. Passing a pre-assessment test and then succeeding on the two week course will then enable the racing groom to become either an Apprentice Jockey (flats) or a Conditional Jockey (jumps).

Do jockeys have it harder?

Most possibly. Whereas in boxing and other combat sports, the combatants weigh in the day before, having dieted especially for the event, jockeys are under the pressure to keep their weight down throughout the whole season.

Jockeys have to weight themselves before every race. Since minimum riding weights are so low, they push themselves to lose the pounds almost any which way they can. This can take a toll mentally on these athletes.

It’s fair to say that jockeys run their fair share of risks, just like racing drivers or combat sports professionals. Horses can weigh as much as 1,450 lbs and run as fast as 55 mph. All the while, the jockey must take care not to lean too far forward, nor too far back. Getting this balance wrong, combined with the speed of the horse, puts them in a position in which the horse can launch them over their head, resulting in a potential trampling.

Sports players in many different disciplines, including football or soccer, must train extremely hard. Jockeys, and a few other sports players, however, have to not only train and diet for competition, but also place their own safety on the line. It’s a dangerous occupation and although some may not deem it glamorous, jockeying for a living is certainly worthy of respect.

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