Has racing fever got you considering a career change as a horse jockey? Before you quit your day job, you should know skilled horse jockey qualities are hard to come by. Even if you check all the athletic and physical ability boxes, thoroughbred racing fanatics swear riders have a certain je ne sais quoi. Bottom line? You either got it or ya don’t.

Skilled Horse Jockey Qualities

Unofficial requirements to become a jockey

Before you even think about jockey training school (apprenticing) or looking for horse jockey jobs, you need to ask yourself if you possess certain qualities. An ideal candidate for a highly competitive training program will:


  • Stay cool under pressure: Besides having a natural athletic ability (balance, strength, stamina), skilled horse jockey qualities cannot disappear when the athlete is under pressure.
  • Love animals: This one should be a no-brainer, but it’s got to be said. Horses are usually even-tempered but they can throw a kick or a bite. A truly skilled jockey can handle it all.
  • Enjoy the thrill of competing: The point of thoroughbred racing is winning. Horse jockey jobs are easy to come by if you’ve got a reputation for coming in first.
  • Have je ne sais quoi: Even if you possess all the qualities mentioned above, the horse jockey job description still calls for that special something. You need to connect with your animal on a spiritual level. You need the adrenaline of racing, running through your veins.

If you have natural ability, some training stables won’t require prior riding experience. They can teach you how to ride a horse, but they can’t teach you passion.

Jockey training school

Skilled horse jockey qualities are taught during a four-year apprenticeship, but this is no normal educational experience. Consider this time at jockey training school more like training for the Olympics. Apprenticing jockeys usually live at their training stables so they can work, train, and learn from dusk ‘til dawn.

Jockeys get paid during their training, and once they’ve mastered some key skills, they’ll have the opportunity to win some cash prizes at real live horse racing competitions. Stables award jockeys 5% of their earnings to start.

Know the risks associated with the horse jockey job description

Professional jockeys can handle a punch, kick, fall, or whatever else comes their way. It’s important to remember about 60% of professionals in thoroughbred racing meet a serious accident during their career. Courage really should top the list of skilled horse jockey qualities.

More of a Watcher Than a Do-er?

Have the requirements to become a jockey scared you off the track? We don’t blame you. Come enjoy the thrill of competition all from the safe stands at Ellis Park Racing. Our thoroughbred racing season is just around the corner! Visit our site to learn more.