Exhausting hours, the constant watching of weight, and risks of being injured are the regular realities of life as a jockey anywhere in the world.
Although those issues naturally affect jockeys riding in competitive races, riders also face those dangers on the exercise track every morning they get up on a horse.
With racing at Caymanas Park shut down indefinitely due to the continuing spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), jockeys are now dealing with another pressing issue - the lack of income.
Ian “Dolly Baby” Spence, a veteran member of the jockeys’ colony, intimated that while he can deal with the typical issues jockeys have to face, the uncertainty of when racing will resume is even more daunting.
“You have to realise that when there is no racing, we don’t earn any money. And while I understand the need to close because of corona, it is really difficult — and we are not getting any help from anyone. Most of the riders are really feeling the sting. But, we have to tough it out and try our best to survive,” Spence stated.
As to the weight and injury issues, Spence shared his thoughts with this publication.
“A lot of people don’t realise how hard jockeys’ lives are, whether in competitive races or just on the exercise track in the mornings.
“In competitive racing you have plenty of horses in a race going up sometimes to 16 runners in one race. When you have so many horses in one race, there is going to be traffic problems, and if you are not careful a jockey can fall and get severely injured.
“Even in races with a small field, injuries can occur as a horse might break a leg, leading to jockeys being thrown to the ground.
“In the mornings, few horses are working together but you still face the danger of falling as well, but not as much in competitive races — but the dangers are still there,” Spencer offered.
Over the years, Spence has seen success and failure in his up-and-down life as a jockey, but he offered that he has been able to be in the saddle for so long (over 30 years) because he has maintained a consistent weight.
“Controlling you weight is essential if you want to be successful as a rider. You don’t want to go overweight on horses, making dieting and exercising crucial.
“Although racing is not on now, we as riders still have to manage our weight,” Spence said.