Gold 2017 Editorial / Photo Essay

Kid Jockeys

  • Prize
    Gold in Editorial/Photo Essay, Silver in Events/Sport
  • Photographer
    Alain Schroeder

Once a game between neighbors to celebrate a good harvest, horse racing was transformed into a spectator sport by the Dutch in the 20th century to entertain officials and nobility. The unique features of Sumbawa racing are the notoriously small horses and fearless child jockeys, aged 5-10, who mount bareback, barefoot and with little protective gear racing at speeds of up to 80 kms per hour. Their only protection is the « Sandro », a spiritual healer who protects young jockeys by performing elaborate rituals and guiding them in training. Maen Jaran (the Indonesian name of the game) takes place during important festivals and holidays throughout the year at racetracks across the island and remains a favorite pastime for Sumbawans. Rules have evolved, horses are now classified by age and height, yet kid jockeys continue to risk their lives for 3,50 to 7 euros per mount often racing 5 to 6 times a day for a week, pushed by parents and relatives given the potential earnings that far outweigh the poor returns on crops often plagued by drought.