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How Jockeys Stay in Shape for Horse Racing

Enda McElhinney provides insight into how jockeys maintain their fitness and weight.

Jockeys in horse racing live by some of the most demanding lifestyles and training regimes across any sport. The lightweight riders have to stay in complete control of their weight. Otherwise, they will be too heavy for their ride, jeopardising their future in the sport. In national hunt racing, jockeys must jump over hurdles or fences with their horse. They often pick up injuries that rule them out of the sport for some time - but even during their rehabilitation, they must keep their weight down. Otherwise, they can delay their return to action.

The two biggest races on the national hunt calendar are the Cheltenham Gold and the Grand National, where Rule the World was successful in April 2016. Here is a look at how the best jockeys will prepare and stay in great shape for these prestigious races.

A Disciplined Diet

The proper diet is crucial for all jockeys in horse racing but even more critical for those who will line up at the Cheltenham Festival in March in the biggest week of the year in the sport. If they overeat, they could miss their ride at the meeting. Tom Scudamore, for example, is scheduled to partner Thistlecrack, the favourite in the 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup betting – pick your horse and place a bet if you are having a punt in the race. Scudamore will be preparing for this race all year. Therefore, to miss out because he has overeaten would be devastating for the leading national hunt jockey.

To stay in control of their weight throughout a race day, jockeys will consume something light like a piece of toast and a cup of tea. At the end of their rides, they usually eat some fish and vegetables but what is important is that they eat no later than 7 pm otherwise they could struggle to make the weight required for the following day.


Jockeys tend to wake up around 5 am each morning, where they have a long day ahead of them. They will usually start with a 3- or 4-mile run. This can often help them shed the one or two pounds they need to lose before the afternoon when they arrive at a racecourse.

Although they have to stay light, jockeys need to spend a lot of time working on their core strength in the gym. In a close finish, jockeys will earn their riding fee when they push their horse out to the line.

This can often be the difference between winning and losing, as we saw in the Grade One Fighting Fifth Hurdle this season at Newcastle, where a strong drive from jockey Harry Cobden helped Irving score by the margin of a nose ahead of Apple's Jade.

There is some big prize money to be won at the Cheltenham Festival. Never before was the prize money more in 2016 as Cue Card was on course to win a £1 million bonus for his connections as he just needed to be successful in the Gold Cup to complete the Chase Triple Crown. Sadly, he and jockey Paddy Brennan came down four fences from home in the race won by Don Cossack – if you wanted to know more on Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2016 - click here.

Although jockeys do have to make a lot of sacrifices to control their weight, the love of their sport keeps them going. Riding winners is their reward, and success on big race days can see them earn some valuable prize money which helps them keep going.

Love of the Sport Keeps Jockeys Motivated

Although jockeys do have to make a lot of sacrifices to stay in control of their weight, it is the love of their sport that keeps them going. Riding winners is their reward and success on big race days can see them earn some valuable prize money which helps them keep going.

Jean Miller has a comprehensive article on "How to Ride a Horse" packed with practical tips and advice.

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • McELHINNEY, E. (2016) How Jockeys Stay in Shape for Horse Racing [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Enda McElhinney is a sports enthusiast with a passion for Horse Racing. Away from the racetrack, Enda enjoys researching the sports science behind racing and the training regimes within the sport.