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Revised licensing and training procedures aim to produce next generation of elite performance jockeys

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Press Release

22 March 2017

  • Objective to ensure sport has enhanced systems for identifying and developing talent
  • All applicants to have a pre-licence assessment before applying to the apprentice/conditionals jockey course
  • Apprentice/conditional jockey course extended from five to ten days to allow sufficient time to cover all areas of the curriculum
  • Regional continuation training to be provided annually to all claiming jockeys

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA), in partnership with key industry stakeholders, has today announced a significant overhaul to the jockey licensing and training process, with changes taking place from April 1, 2017

The new approach is designed to produce an enhanced training and development strategy through the jockey licensing framework and is the result of more than three years of work following the establishment of a BHA and stakeholder review group in 2014. Industry stakeholders including the Professional Jockeys’ Association (PJA), National Trainers’ Federation (NTF) and the Jockeys Employment and Training Scheme (JETS) have been actively involved and collaborated throughout the process. 

The aim of these changes is to better equip jockeys with the necessary technical skills as they progress through the early stages of their career and to meet their personal development needs. The newly enhanced curriculum-based strategy will also ensure the physical and mental welfare of jockeys is given the attention deserving of the industry’s elite human athletes. 

The enhancements are also designed to address the present situation in which racing is spending considerable resource training individuals who may not become successful. Too many jockeys also mean reduced opportunities for riders who might make the grade. Currently 30 per cent of licensing course attendees do not ride a winner and 88 per cent do not ride out their claim. 

The 2014 review concluded that more rigorous entry criteria should be agreed for aspiring jockeys and that the number of training places be restricted, in order to introduce an element of competition and ensure that the most suitable applicants enter the process on a consistent basis. As a result, all prospective applicants will have to pass a pre-licence assessment before being considered for a place on the main apprentice/conditional course. 

The existing apprentice/conditional licence courses will also be extended from five to ten days to provide attendees with detailed training on the wide variety of skills required to be a professional jockey. 

As well as extensive technical and physical training, those attending will also experience enhanced sessions on nutrition, personal development and lifestyle skills as well as media training and an introduction on the structure of the racing industry. 

The enhanced length and curriculum of the course has resulted in the cost per attendee rising from £700 to £1,650. This cost has been agreed with the PJA and, as previously, will be covered by a percentage of the jockeys’ riding fees together with the annual grant from the Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB). This will ensure that despite a significant investment in training by the sport, no additional cost will be incurred by riders. 

The BHA acknowledges that the longer licensing course will have an impact on the day-to-day running of some yards although this should be viewed against the overall benefit to the sport of having better, more successful, healthier jockeys. 

Another significant change is the extension of an annual training day for all apprentice/conditional jockeys, with content varying by current weight claim. The training day will ensure targeted and structured professional development for inexperienced jockeys that sits alongside the Jockey Coaching Programme, which will continue to provide further support. This replaces the previous week-long continuation and advanced training offered to selected jockeys, and also has the benefit of balancing out the extended length of the initial training courses in order to reduce the strain on trainers in terms of riders being away from the yard.

Some results of the 2014 review are already in place, including a comprehensive jockeys’ handbook which is given to all current course attendees to provide a helpful career reference guide. Jockeys, trainers and industry stakeholders will also receive quarterly newsletters to keep them updated on the latest developments in training and coaching. 

Nick Rust, Chief Executive of the BHA, said: 

The changes announced today ensure that our jockeys will have access to significantly enhanced technical, personal and professional training. A more efficient and extensive assessment process can help aspiring jockeys who have a genuine chance of success to receive the first class levels of support and guidance they require. 

One of our key strategic objectives is to prioritise the welfare of our human and equine athletes and these changes show we are clearly focussed on investing in and looking after our people, as well as our horses.

We are fully aware of the impact these changes are likely to have on horsemen and thank trainers for their understanding. We will continue to have an open dialogue with the National Trainers Federation and their members as these changes come into effect.” 

Paul Struthers, Chief Executive of the Professional Jockeys’ Association, said: 

These changes are the result of a significant amount of work over the last three years and a real collaborative approach. This new, enhanced selection and delivery structure will provide our young jockeys with the necessary training which, when combined with the additional advice and support of JETS, the BHA Jockey Coaches, the PJA and the IJF, will give them the best possible chance to have successful careers and lives both in and out of the saddle.” 

Seamus Mullins, trainer and 2017 President of the National Trainers’ Federation, said: 

The changes to the licensing and training programme for conditional and apprentice jockeys is a further welcome progression in the recruitment, training and development of our young riders. Along with the present invaluable coaching system, these initiatives will ensure that racing is recruiting and training the best candidates for the future of our industry. 

Although trainers may be slightly inconvenienced by the extra time young jockeys are away from their place of work, this will be rewarded by the improvement in riding and life skills this extra training will provide. The increased demands that the fixture list puts on young jockeys and stable staff means that these initiatives, along with the new developments in training and recruitment for Stable Staff, will prepare our workforce to make their careers in racing long and successful and keep British racing at the forefront of racing worldwide.

Sarah Oliver, Chief Executive of the Amateur Jockeys Association, said:

Any enhancement to training is always welcome news to even our most experienced amateurs, particularly with physical and mental welfare on the list. Today’s jockeys have much to contend with in their everyday lives and a more rigorous entry criteria can only benefit the sport in the long term. Its also good to know that they will be kept under the watchful eye of a jockey coach during this important time whilst they embark upon their professional careers.

Richard Perham, Senior Jockey Coach at the British Racing School and a driving force behind many of the training changes, said:

All athletes require a large degree of training through their formative years and jockeys shouldn’t be an exception to the rule. The enhanced training that is being delivered from April 2017 onwards is a big step forward in helping to train our jockeys to be better prepared for the rigours of a professional life in sport and The British Racing School is thrilled to be part of this delivery

Kevin Darley, BHA Jockey Coach and contributor to the review, said:

"These changes can only help our future jockeys in sustaining a long and healthy career in the saddle. The whole Licensing process has been restructured to give our young up-and coming riders a better platform to start and develop a successful career as a professional Jockey. Many retired jockeys, including myself, have been given the opportunity through the Jockey Coaching Programme to share their experience and offer help and continued support throughout a young jockey's career. Through this programme our coaches can provide technical development, advice on conduct and professionalism or even a sympathetic ear when needs be. All of this will offer better opportunities to those riders fortunate enough to be put forward to obtain a Licence to ride under Rules". 

Phil Kinsella, BHA Jockey Coach and Personal Development Manager for JETS, said:

These changes represent a huge step forward in the training and development of Jockeys. A more rigorous entry criteria and pre-course assessments should lead to more jockeys showing a really positive approach to personal development from the outset. Personal Development Managers are there to support jockeys throughout their career in many aspects of both their personal and professional lives which form part of the new development curriculum.

With the combination of more initial training days as part of the licensing process along with the ongoing training support they’ll receive, these changes give jockeys the opportunity to implement their own continuous personal development secure in the knowledge that there is a strong support network available from the very start of their career and throughout.

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