Horse racing requires jockeys to weigh-in prior to competition, with failure automatically excluding the jockey from competition. As such, many jockeys frequently employ long-and-short-term ‘wasting’ weight loss techniques which can be harmful to health. This study aimed to: (a) explore jockeys’ social norms and experiences regarding wasting, and (b) the effects of wasting on their mental health. Six professional jockeys with a minimum of two years professional riding experience were recruited from a range of stud racing yards in Ireland. Following individual participant interviews, an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis approach revealed four themes: (1) ‘Day in day out’, (2) ‘Horse racing is my life’, (3) ‘You just do what you have to do’, and (4) ‘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.
- Horse racing
- Learned helplessness