“You Wanna Ride, Then You Waste”: The Psychological Impact of Wasting in National Hunt Jockeys

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Horse racing requires jockeys to weigh in prior to each competition, with failure automatically excluding the jockey from competition. As such, many jockeys frequently employ long- and short-term “wasting” weight-loss techniques that can be harmful to health. This study aimed to explore jockeys’ social norms and experiences regarding wasting and the effects of wasting on their mental health. Six professional jockeys with a minimum of 2 years professional riding experience were recruited from a range of stud-racing yards in Ireland. From individual participant interviews, an interpretative-phenomenological-analysis approach revealed four themes: “Day in, day out,” “Horse racing is my life,” “You just do what you have to do,” and “This is our world.” Themes were interpreted through social-identity theory, which highlighted how wasting is an acceptable in-group norm among jockeys, irrespective of relationship problems and mental health consequences. Recommendations are offered for intervening to support jockeys’ mental health.

McGuane, Shannon, and Sharp, and Breslin are with the Sport and Exercise Science Research Inst., University of Ulster, Newtownabbey, United Kingdom. Dempster is with the School of Psychology, Queens University, Belfast, United Kingdom.

Shannon (s.shannon@ulster.ac.uk) is corresponding author.
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