and caring for horses. These building blocks prepare your career. If you’re not a good horsemen and don’t love horses, you’ll never make it,” says Mel.
Personality type best suited to the job
“You have to be tough,” she says, spraying on perfume after showering. “This is still a man’s world. It’s fine to be feminine, but on the field you’re ‘one of the boys’. You also need to be dedicated, disciplined, hardworking and patient with the horses. “You don’t begin as a champion. You start at the bottom and work your way up. Good physical strength and fitness are essential.”
An average day
Mel’s day starts on the track at 5am. Breakfast is at 10am and then a couple of hours are spent in the gym. After a race, Mel watches her performance on video, analysing it with a mentor, who shows her where she went wrong, how to anticipate problems, and how to respond.
The worst thing about this job
Tex Lerena, Chairman of the South African Jockeys Association says, “It’s imperative that aspiring jockeys are realistic about this business. Jockeys are the stuntmen of the turf. A rider travels at 60 km ph in sprint races perched six foot above the ground. In an accident he is a human missile with only a helmet and a body protector between him and a pack of 400kg horses. The danger of being trampled is very real. In some unfortunate cases, spinal injuries have resulted in paralysis. No ride, no earn! This is one of the lowest paid professional sports in the world, but one of the most dangerous!”
The best thing about this job
“I love the adrenaline rush, the speed and the horses, of course,” says Mel. “It’s hard physical work but I want to do it for the rest of my life.” When Mel ended up on crutches, her parents stood by her. “They would not let me give up my dream because things weren’t going my way. They stopped me from giving up.”
Her inspiration is the American female jockey, Julianne Krone, who won 3704 races over a 23-year career. Mel’s face burns with concentration and ambition when she says, “I want to do that too. I’m not scared of hard work.”
Published By: Marli Merz & Matters