At the Ekrem Kurt Apprentice center young, petite boys and girls train intensely to become jockeys. With stars in their eyes and bursting with confidence, they rise to the occasion at 4am in the morning
ISTANBUL – Training is necessary even to become a jokey The horse riding courses at Ekrem Kurt Apprentice Training Center are as difficult and exciting as the horse racing events held at the Veliefendi Hippodrome in Istanbul. Future jockeys are given intensive training. Following a two-year education, the trainees are granted with "apprenticeship" certificates.
There are currently 50 jockey apprentices at Turkey's first apprentice jockey training center. The center has trained the most famous Turkish jockeys since 1985. We paid a visit to the center early in the morning when the apprentice jockeys had already started to work in the horse barns. Carrying their saddles, the apprentices took the horses from their barns. The horses were respectively groomed and cleaned. The horse barns were also cleaned. After wearing their special uniform and headgear, the apprentices started to ride their horses around the field. Taking a tour with the horses beating the crap out of the previous races, the apprentices ride every day in teams of seven under the supervision of their trainers. The future jockeys pay particular attention to instructions and carry out all tasks as required. Each apprentice is totally focused on becoming a jockey.
They do not weigh more than 45 kilos
Apprentice jockeys are selected from among hundreds of young people around Turkey. There are some specific entry requirements: All jockey candidates must be no taller than 1.50 meters and weigh no more than 45 kilograms.
Further, they are required to pass a written examination and pay particular attention to their diet. They wake up at 4 a.m. every day and go to the stable to ride a horse. The apprentices are required to take care of their horses with patience and discipline. They do not ride the same horse each time. Horse racing trainer Davud Akdı explains: "If trainees ride the same horse every day, they only get used to the habits of the same horse. They cannot become a successful jockey."
The center offers a promising jockey career to the apprentices, as Gökhan Kocakaya, Tugay Alıcı, Gökhan Gökçe, Ayhan Koşul, Uğur Polat and Mustafa Çiçek are among the previous trainees who have left a mark on the recent history of horse racing.
Starting at an early age, an apprentice only dreams about becoming a successful jockey. It seems that there is a long way ahead of them since holding an apprenticeship certificate is only the beginning.
In order to acquire the title "jockey," they need to win first place in 150 horse races.
While some of them would like to take part in the Gazi Race, a Turkish thoroughbred horse flat race, there are also some others wishing to become a champion in their first race. It is obvious that their common point is an admiration for horses. Many of the apprentices live away from their parents to realize their unique dreams. Some apprentices have horse riders in their families or relatives interested in horse racing.
"I will ride like the lighting" İsmail Ersöz (18) is a second-year trainee whose admiration for horses began when he was living in the İnegöl district of Bursa. When the mother of his horse "Şimsek" (Lighting) died, he began to look after the horse when it was only 20 days old. He aspires to become a jockey.
"When I ride, I feel free" Mustafa Candemir (16) does not have any horse riders in his family. However, the love of his brother-in-law for horse racing has led him to become an apprentice. He says: "I feel free when I ride a horse. If I have chance to show my abilities, I think I will be successful. My dream is to win a first rank in the Gazi Race."
"All members of my family ride horses" Riding a horse since he was seven, Hışman Çizik (16) says: "We have horses in Şanlıurfa. I spent my childhood riding horses. I came to this center to improve myself. I have always imitated my elder brothers riding horses. Weight is the most important factor for us. We don't eat fast food or pastries."
"Nobody will beat me on the track" Muharrem Ok (17) comes from Ağrı, and his family has been breeding horses for a long time. His father and brother are also jockeys. Ok has been riding since he was seven and has had the opportunity to experience horse riding on more than 5,000 occasions with 320 first ranks.
He decided to become a jockey when he saw his brother: "My dream is to become a jokey like my brother. Nobody will beat me on the track."