Riding horses may look easy, but a 1500lb animal at peak fitness is incredibly strong and the jockey is perched precariously on very short stirrups with no support. In addition to this, jockeys have to be light in order to ride racehorses; in jump racing the lowest this can be is 10st, but in flat racing the minimum is 7st 12lbs. Because of this, jockeys are arguably the fittest athletes of any sport, pound for pound.
Good jockeys need the strength to hold a horse back or drive him forward, as well as experience, a split-second sense of timing and of course a high standard of horsemanship, to win races. Jockeys often start their careers as stable staff and those that show a flair for race-riding progress into a professional riding career.
The number of jockeys riding in Britain changes regularly but the most recent figures released by the Jockey Club indicate that there are 427 professional jockeys with licenses in Britain. Of these 256 ride on the flat and 171 over jumps. There are a further 441 amateur jockeys.