Physically you need to weigh between 108-118 pounds. There is no height limit for jockeys, though most are fairly short, given the weight limitation. The lankiest of jockeys is no more than 5 foot 5 inches tall. And despite your diminutive stature you must be able to control a horse that weighs 1,200 pounds, and travels at a speed of 40 MPH. Doing all this while in a saddle no bigger or heavier than your average dinner plate.
You should have an interest in horses at a young age, and start as a hot walker, and/or morning exercise rider for any trainer that will let you. If after rising every morning before the sun comes up to get to the track to perform those tasks you still want to enter the riding profession you will begin as an apprentice jockey. You will need to find someone to mentor you as a master jockey, (usually a retired rider) and then successfully complete a minimum of twenty simulated races before being granted a license.
Once you have received your license to ride you will need to hire an agent. This agent should be someone who has been in the business and has connections. If you have talent the agent will recognize it, and do your bidding to get horse trainers to take a chance on you and give you a mount in an actual race. After a two year apprenticeship (or a certain number of victories) you will become a senior jockey, and will have hopefully developed good relationships with some horses as well as their trainers.
Once you become a professional jockey your compensation will be a flat fee for each race you ride- regardless of the outcome. If the horse you are riding finishes in the money, you get a percentage (usually 10%) of the allotted prize money. For instance, in a race with a $750,000 dollar purse, the winners share of that is 55%, or $412,500 dollars. If you were fortunate enough to be riding that winning horse you would take home $41,250 dollars. Not too shabby.
There is of course an inherent danger to being a jockey. Jockey’s health insurance premiums are the highest in organized sports. But with risk comes great reward; active jockey John Velazquez (pictured) tops the earnings list with a current net worth of $326 million.
The Daily Racing Blog has painted with broad strokes here in regard to becoming a jockey, but we hope you get the gist of it.