Anyone who has ever visited a horse race can quickly recognize jockeys for sure. Since they usually wear conspicuous clothes, it is not complicated to spot them near horses or on the horse track. However, it is impossible to measure their precise height and weight unless you meet one up close.
Typically, these traits will vary slightly, depending on the horse breed they ride and horse racing type. However, it is possible to determine average jockey height and weight in most cases. The strict limitations about the size exist for multiple reasons, but horse health is crucial in this case. Let’s take a closer look.
Why Does the Jockey Size Matter?
Jockeys have to follow strict weight requirements to compete in horseracing. They can vary from race to race, but only within narrow limits.
As you can guess, the jockey’s height and weight are directly linked to a horse’s health. In other words, carrying a heavier jockey can significantly impact the animal’s ability to compete in future races.
Before any race, the commissioners calculate how much weight each horse can carry. That is a so-called assigned horse weight.
Racehorse trainers always choose jockeys whose weight is closest to the assigned weight to maximize the chances of winning. The math is simple. The more weight a horse carries, the less chance it has to finish in the first place.
Average jockey height and weight
|Average body size
|69 inches (1.75 m)
|200 pounds (90.7 kg)
|62 inches (1.57 m)
|113 pounds (51.3 kg)
|64 inches (1.63 m)
|170 pounds (77 kg)
|62 inches (1.57 m)
|107 pounds (48.5 kg)
|58 to 66 inches (1.47 – 1.68 m)
|108 to 118 pounds (49 – 53.5 kg)
Even though there is no limitation in the professional racehorse industry concerning jockey’s height, short jockeys are generally more popular. Most trainers think that more weight in a smaller body better suits the horse.
Also, it is believed that shorter jockeys have better control over the horse during the horserace.
So, you will see that trainers often opt for the shorter of the two jockeys when they have two of them weighing the same at their disposal. Although regulations don’t set this size, it is rare to see a jockey taller than 68 inches (1.73 m).
Weight Limit for Jockeys
Two factors determine weight limits for jockeys. The first one is the size of the horse and how much weight the individual animal can carry. The second one depends on the horserace type.
The key is to accelerate speed as fast as possible for flat racing, making it more convenient for shorter and lighter jockeys. As a result, they will be more successful than heavier and taller ones.
On the other hand, jump racing requires additional strength and endurance when controlling the horse. Therefore, jockeys’ weight is as vital as their skill. This race type requires taller and heavier jockeys who need to weigh 108 to 118 pounds (49 – 53.5 kg) on average.
Keep in mind that some horse races have special requirements regarding the jockey’s size. For instance, their weight limit in the Kentucky Derby is 119 pounds (54 kg). After adding the tack weight, it will go up to 126 pounds (57 kg).
In the UK, jockeys participating in flat races need to adapt to the minimum weight limit of 112 pounds (51 kg). However, National Hunt jockeys won’t allow weighing over 140 pounds (64 kg).
Weight control at horse racing
Although most racehorses can carry approximately 118 to 122 pounds (53 – 55 kg), it is necessary to add equipment weight. That is one of the reasons why the weight guidelines are so strict at horseraces.
Nowadays, all jockeys have weigh-in both before and after the race. It also includes the equipment weight.
The organizers will provide small lead weights if a jockey weighs less than the set minimum and add it to the saddle. They will compensate for the weight to balance the competition.
Finally, jockeys need to check their weight once again after the race, as well. Since it is impossible to achieve the weight the horse carries during the race accurately, it is acceptable for the jockey’s weight to vary by 4 pounds (2 kg).
Height Limits for Jockeys
As I have already mentioned, while weight limits are a big deal in horseracing, there are no height limits. However, this doesn’t mean that you will find jockeys of all sizes. On the contrary, most jockeys are 58 to 67 inches (1.47 – 1.70 m) high on average.
In both the US and the UK, the average man jockey’s height is 69 inches (1.75 m). In other words, most professionals are shorter than an average male.
As I have already mentioned, shorter jockeys meet the strict weight requirements easier. Plus, they are stronger due to the better proportioning of their bodies.
Taller jockeys can reduce the weight until they meet the racehorse trainers’ requirements. Unfortunately, it will probably negatively affect their health in most cases.
Jump racing is a better alternative for taller jockeys due to the less strict weight requirements. Tall jockeys typically weigh more, so they have the additional stamina necessary for this horseracing type.
Exceptions that confirm the rule
As usual, there are always exceptions to the rule, so you can find a few successful jockeys much taller than their competitors.
One of the recent examples is Patrick Sankey, who won the point-to-point race in 2019. He is 79 inches (2 m) tall, which is an entirely unexpected and atypical height for this profession.
The deceased professional Australian jockey, Stuart Brown, was 74 inches (1.88 m) tall. Since he died young at the age of 43, there were many speculations that his weight problems were one of the causes for such a short lifespan.
The most well-known and successful tall jockey of all time was Bruce Hobbs. The American won the Welsh Grand National and was the youngest jockey ever to win the English Grand National in 1938. This incredible man was 73 inches (1.85 m) tall.
Extreme Methods Jockeys Take to Stay Small
Jockeys have rigorous diets and often follow extreme weight-loss routines to maintain the required weight and remain competitive in the sport. Otherwise, they risk losing their contract and payments.
Sometimes, jockeys take rigorous measures to keep the weight within the required limits. It is not rare to meet those who use specific methods to stunt their growth.
Unfortunately, such decisions often lead to significant health problems in the future. The most known extreme methods jockeys can use include:
Many professional jockeys skip meals when they feel their weight might be a problem in a particular horserace. That is especially the case in the few days before big and famous races that bring high amounts of money.
In this case, the diet will depend on the jockeys themselves. Some will eat less than usual, while others skip the whole meal.
Dehydration through diuretics
Diuretics are an increasing problem in horseracing. Jockeys often use pills to get water out of their bodies and consequently lose water weight.
Unfortunately, diuretics affect other mineral levels in the human body. As a result, frequent use will negatively affect their health in the long run.
Flipping is one of the unhealthiest methods jockeys use. They force themselves to vomit before a race to lose weight.
At one point, jockeys practiced flipping so often that organizers installed so-called flipping bowls in their rooms. You can’t find these bowls anymore, but the habit of vomiting a few hours before a race is still popular among professional jockeys.
Professional jockeys are often compared to freelancers since they constantly change horses and clubs. They also need to advertise themselves to different organizations and horse owners all the time.
The jockey’s body and size are their primary characteristics. As athletes, they need to take great care of their bodies like any professionals in other sports. Even though the upper body is generally the main focus in this sport, maintaining strong lower body parts is crucial.
Therefore, professional jockeys follow rigorous diets and workout regimes to stay in good shape and meet the weight requirements. They also have to pass different fitness tests and weight check-ups to strike new deals.
Nowadays, many jockeys decide to finish adequate school. The best option in the USA is the North American Racing Academy that offers them a 2-year program. They only require a high school diploma to participate.
Horseracing can be risky both on the tracks and off them. Being a professional jockey is no easy job and requires a lot of discipline, stamina, athleticism, and mental strength. Plus, jockeys need to regularly maintain their weight to meet the strict limits that race commissioners set.
If jockeys don’t meet the weight requirements, they can’t participate in competitions. Unfortunately, some methods to keep the weight under control often lead to severe health problems.