Helmet to stirrup: A jockey’s get-up explained

25/10/16

Ever wondered why jockeys wear what they wear?

That jockey wearing pink polka dots isn’t doing it for reasons of personal taste. And those breeches that look slightly see-through? They may have been selected because of how much they weigh rather than how flattering they are.

We turned to 37-year racing veteran and rider of more than 2000 winners, Darren Gauci for the low-down. And given he spends his spare time making riding gear in his shed for sale, he’s the perfect guide.

THE HELMET (OR SKULLCAP): Compulsory when racing, a jockey’s helmet is designed to protect the brain in the event of a fall. They cost anything from $500 to $900, and are retired after every accident involving a knock to the head. The owner colours (silks) are also worn over the helmet. 

GOGGLES: Goggles protect a jockey’s eyes from mud and debris being kicked up by the horse in front of them, so are generally only worn on race day. Goggles are the bargain part of a jockey’s kit. You can pick up a pair for less than $10.

SILKS (COLOURS): Those pink polka dots are the registered colours of the owner or trainer of the horse the jockey is riding. Along with the bridle (the headgear used to control a horse) and reins, they are the only thing you’ll see a jockey using on race day that they don’t own. The owner or trainer provides the silks. They’ll bring several sets to the racecourse if they have more than one horse racing on the day, particularly if it’s wet and the silks are likely to end up spattered in mud. And as for sizing? Well it’s one size fits all – men and women included – in the racing game.

SKIVVY: Under those colours jockeys wear a skivvy, lightweight mesh or microfiber for race days, and possibly something more heavy-duty for trackwork. They come in both long sleeve and sleeveless.

VESTS: Compulsory since 1998, padded vests extending from chest to belly-button are worn in races and trackwork. “It might stop you breaking a rib if a horse steps on you,” Mr Gauci said.

BREECHES: Most jockeys own four or five pairs of race breeches, and with weight such a key part of racing, how much a pair of breeches weighs can be a deciding factor. Mr Gauci said weight ranges from 200 grams down to as little as 50 grams, with waterproof versions being heavier. The breeches are the only sponsored property in the sport. LUCRF Super has been the proud sponsor of the breeches since 2013. Proceeds go to the National Jockeys Trust to support jockeys who have suffered life-changing injury or illness.

GLOVES: Some riders wear gloves, but Mr Gauci said he preferred nothing between his hands and the reins. The exception might be on a rainy day when reins can become slippery.

BOOTS: While sturdy knee-high leather riding boots are the option of choice for trackwork, on race day a lighter version is needed. Costing around $180 to $200 there are zip and slip-on options, with patent leather being Mr Gauci’s choice for ease of cleaning.

SADDLE: Most jockeys own three or four racing saddles for different circumstances. If a jockey weighs 54 kilograms in a race that allows them to be 57 kilos, there would be no need to choose a super lightweight saddle. Trackwork – where weight isn’t an issue – uses saddles which are sturdier, heavier and more comfortable for the jockey who is spending much longer in the saddle than while racing. Saddles can cost between $500 and $1800 and are used for a number of years.

GIRTH AND STIRRUPS: For the past two years Mr Gauci has run his own business, A1 Saddlery, manufacturing girths (the part that goes under the horse’s belly to secure the saddle) and stirrup leathers in his shed. He says buying quality raw materials is the key. “You don’t take shortcuts because it’s very much a safety factor. You don’t want buckles breaking.”

Relevant articles:

When you see the LUCRF Super name on jockeys’ breeches, spare a thought for our courageous jockeys and know that your super fund is getting behind them.

LUCRF Super can help you this autumn

We can help roll all your super into one low-fee account, so you only have one account to keep track of. We can also do a super search for you on your behalf, and may find lost super you didn't even know you had!

Let us do the hard work for you. 

Simply fill in the form below and we'll get in touch.

Take LUCRF Super with you