Hanging up the breeches: What’s next for a jockey?

Jockeys have the best qualities to suit any job, but finding one when they give up racing is hard.

Jockeys have the best qualities to suit any job, but finding one when they give up racing is hard. Photo Getty

“I finished year 10 but at the end of the day who is going to employ an uneducated 35-year-old?”

Retired jockey Dale Smith encapsulates the thinking of many of his colleagues when they consider life after riding. Many think of themselves as one-trick ponies.

Victorian Jockeys Association CEO Des O’Keefe has heard it all before.

“I often hear jockeys say ‘We don’t have any skills, all we know how to do is ride a horse around a track’,” he says.

But Chris Klingbeil, director of athlete career transitions firm Touchstone Pathways, says jockeys are ready-made for many roles.

“They can withstand pressure that most people can’t, they know they’re a brand 24/7, they can stick to a process and they can handle difficult stakeholders,” he says.

“They’re really comfortable in a high-pressure, high-adrenalin, high-action space.”

High adrenalin doesn’t just come from the thrill of a race. It can also mean the high you get from making a big sale, solving a major logistical problem or delivering an important project.

Jockey's perform well under high pressure situations, something they have to constantly deal with when racing

Jockeys perform well under high-pressure situations, something they have to constantly deal with when racing.

Touchstone Pathways has partnered with the Victorian Jockeys Association in a pilot program to help jockeys find careers after riding. They arrange work placement and mentoring opportunities for jockeys and help them with practical skills.

As Mr O’Keefe points out: “None of our people would ever have done a job interview.”

Touchstone Pathways helps the jockeys create a compelling resume, which says more than ‘1996 to present: jockey’, instead focusing on transferrable skills, of which Mr O’Keefe points out, there are many.

“They have an incredible work ethic, they’re self-motivating and they work extremely odd hours. They can also work with a wide range of people, from Lloyd Williams to Old Mate who drives a cab and has a share in a horse,” he says.

“And they’re regulated by extensive sets of rules and regulations, so they can follow orders. Those skills are incredibly valuable for any employer.”

One area proving a good fit for jockeys is real estate. Touchstone Pathways has formed a partnership with agency Jellis Craig to provide opportunities to jockeys.

“You tell a jockey ‘you’re going to have to talk to a difficult vendor’ and they just laugh,” Mr Klingbeil points out. “Try talking to a difficult owner or trainer!”

Dale Smith has made a successful transition into real estate with O’Brien Real Estate.

“I love it,” he says. “The real estate game is a natural transition for a jockey.”

For Des O’Keefe, the transitions program is the final piece in the puzzle for his organisation. “We’ve got very good pay, good conditions, a great welfare program and we’ve got super. What we didn’t have is what the hell these people do when they finish. That’s now changing.”


This content was proudly sponsored by LUCRF Super.

LUCRF Super is the proud principal sponsor of the Australian Jockeys’ Association (AJA). Through the sponsorship of jockeys’ breeches, LUCRF Super makes a financial commitment to the National Jockeys Trust to ensure strong ongoing support for injured jockeys and their families.

Look out for the LUCRF Super name on the backside of every jockey this spring. For more information visit

L.U.C.R.F Pty Ltd ABN 18 005 502 090 AFSL 258481 as Trustee for Labour Union Co-Operative Retirement Fund (LUCRF Super) ABN 26 382 680 883.

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