What's the Deal with Jockeys?

A common scene in movies and television shows dealing with horse racing is the weighing of the jockeys and saddles. Subsequently, officials load some of the saddles with extra weight. I get that jockeys have to be small, so the horse doesn’t have to carry so much weight. What I don’t understand is how the weight of the individual jockeys is used.

Does every horse have to carry as much as the heaviest jockey? If so, why not enter a draft horse ridden by a sumo?

Is the weight of the jockeys averaged, and if you’re lighter than that average you have to carry more weight? This would explain the extra weight, without rewarding heavier jockeys on stronger horses, but seems like a lot of math.

What is the deal, and is the jockey’s weight listed in the racing form, or pertinent to betting?

Each horse in a specific race carries the same weight. Occasionally a horse will given an allowance and is allowed a slight break in weight. An example is the jockey weights for the upcoming Breeder’s Cup Classic.

It’s very pertinent to betting. Lighter load might equal faster horse.

I don’t know if all horses in a particular race have to carry the same weight but even if so, live weight is easier for the horse than dead weight.

Each horse in every race does not carry the same weights unless it is a set weights race. In a handicap race horses with a better record receive higher weights so theoretically all the horses should cross the line at the same time.

Even in weight for age races horses of different ages carry different weights (depending on sex).

As jockeys normally need to be able to ride as light at they can, if they are riding a horse carrying more weight than the, the saddle and bridle weigh, lead is placed beneath the saddle so that the correct weight is carried.

From what you describe above it seems the jockeys are weighing out before the race. They are also weighed again when they return after the race to ensure the correct weight has been carried. If a jockey weighs in light the horse will be disqualified.

(This is a very simplified account and applies to racing in Australia and NZ and the UK. ).

OK then, while we’re at it… dog races don’t need jockeys, why do horse races need them? Is there no way to train horses to race by chasing something without someone riding on them? I know nothing about horse racing, and little about horses.

Though my guess is related to what a friend (who grew up on a farm) told me about them. That they are stupid animals who hate having to work. That to saddle up a horse, you have to wait for the horse to take a deep breath (expanding its chest cavity to prevent a saddle being clinched tightly on it), then you time the tightening of the saddle with the inevitable exhale.

Again, I’m not a horse person, so no idea if that’s accurate. Which is why I’m asking a question that had never occurred to me before until I read this thread.

They do have vovelty races with greyhounds carrying monkeys as jockeys.

OK… and… pause for all the “monkey on your back” jokes.

Now, resume standard messaging procedure.

It’s possible that horses wouldn’t run without jockeys and couldn’t be trained to do so. My suspicion, however, is that no one has really tried, because horse racing is a formalized form of “Hey, let’s see whose horse is faster, mine or yours?” which would have started with 2 or more men on horseback (or driving curricles). People related differently to horses than they do to dogs, and I think that accounts for some of the differences between horse racing and dog racing.

(It is to be noted that what I know about dog racing consists of “it exists” and “it often uses greyhounds” and my knowledge of horse racing is greater but still in the highly dangerous (little knowledge) region.)

Incidently, it is my understanding that apprentice jockeys are often given a weight allowance to help make up for their lack of experience. This means that an apprentice jockey may have a wonderful year, but has a hard time following up on it the next year when the weight allowance goes away–winning jockeys who aren’t hurt can continue riding for decades, and have relationships with owners, trainers, etc. This makes it hard for the young to break into the business.

Even if you could train a horse to race with no jockey, you couldn’t train them on race strategy. I don’t know much about horse racing but I would think it’s similar to human racing, where some horses can kick at the end, and lag behind on purpose to let their opponents run out of energy. Or ones with better endurance try to take the lead early and hold it. I would think a good jockey studies the horses he’s going to be running against. Horses don’t all necessarily run totally balls out from the gate all the way to the finish line.

I don’t know how they train dogs to run but I imagine they just pour it on for the whole race.

Horses love to run. You will sometimes see them running and “racing” on their own in pasture.
Horses are prey animals. They have no instinct to chase anything unless it’s in defense, so they can’t be trained to chase something around a track, they just don’t care. Being prey animals you can get a group of horses to run away from something, but not along a set path - that would be unnatural, to run away from something along a set path with an ending point, plus you would have to catch them afterward. So, horses need riders to guide them.

Seems kinda smart to me, to hold my breath and make my chest bigger while someone straps something really tightly around it, so when they think they’re done and I let my breath go - hey, not so uncomfortably tight!

Snipped. Stupid compared to what? Horses are smarter than cows, sheep, chickens, etc. I’m not sure about pigs, since I have almost no experience with them, but horses are far from stupid.

One of these things is not like the other. I’ve been around horses a lot, but never actually saddled one up myself. Anybody know which one is correct? I’m guessing filmyak’s version, otherwise the saddle would be too loose on the exhale and would slip off. But I don’t know what that has to do with their supposed intelligence.

Stupid? You’ve never met the horses I have, especially Mickey. I swear to Og he is Houdini reincarnated in a horse’s body.

Pigs are much smarter then horses. They’re often considered smarter then dogs.

Much harder to ride, though…and not near as fast.

But infinitely more delicious.

Of course not. They all wear a cup. What do you think the jockey strap is for?

I always thought the jockey/weight thing was to ensure bettors that the reace couldn’t be thrown by putting on a lighter/heavier jockey at the last minute to affect the horse’s performance (listing a jockey at 115 pounds, then substituting one who weighs 125 or vice versa). Sort of like the requirement that thoroughbreds be bred by love cover to make sure no one slipped Old Paint into what was supposed to be the breed of Secretariat.