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By Jeff Lloyd | Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Earlier this year … some forty-three years after he first set foot in the South African Jockey Academy as a raw apprentice … Jeff Lloyd returned to the place where it all started as a guest of honour at the Academy where he interacted both formally and informally with its current students. Lloyd’s massive amount of international experience, his total number of winners … including his outstanding record of Group 1 wins in different countries and his other big race results … as well as his focussed, deep understanding of the intricacies of his profession meant he had plenty of good advice to offer when he addressed those students in a formal setting. Lloyd’s message and the wisdom it contains was, in essence, not just for his immediate audience though. Its value remains true and is there for the benefit of any apprentice who wants to give his or her dream of reaching for the stars its best chance of coming alive. For those apprentices who really want to take their career seriously, ‘The Guv says …’, the personal blog of Jeff Lloyd which appears exclusively on HRO, should be essential reading.


“When I gave the talk at the South African Jockey Academy there must have been about eighteen apprentices or so in the room. I told them what was expected of them at this stage and what would be the best way for them to go forward.

“I really enjoyed doing it. I always like to help the younger riders. It was even a little bit emotional for me at times but it went well. I gave out a lot of advice which seemed to be taken on board but, as far as apprentices go, where-ever you are, you have got to realise you are dealing with young men and young women … or those who are turning into young men and young women … and they can start getting little attitudes because their hormones have all changed and they start thinking they are something just because they are apprentice jockeys.

“For their part the apprentices have to realise that when they are at the track they are often dealing with people, many of whom have been in the game their whole lives. These people are all looking for the next star or, should I say, they are really doing is looking for signs that will point them in the direction of the next star.

“The first thing that catches attention is who looks like they are willing to work the hardest. Who will do it with a smile and be polite and dress suitably. All these things are very important early on. You need to look the part and the importance of that public image never goes away. It remains important at every stage of a jockey’s career.

“You can see somebody who looks good on a horse but they have got the wrong attitude. Ability will only get you so far. I have seen a lot of kids with a lot of ability go nowhere because of their attitude … and visa versa. I’ve seen kids with not much ability to start off with, but the right attitude, make something of themselves and become a good rider.

“Either way it is always going to be very hard for apprentices because they are young. They’ve been thrown into a big game and they have got to grow up very quickly. It’s about self-discipline and a lot of kids are going to battle with self-discipline at that age. There are those who grow up quickly and there are those who wake up too late. The earlier they handle themselves well and deal with the challenge the better for them.

“Ultimately they have to approach their career in a mature way. They can’t approach it just thinking that things are going to fall into place. They have got to be mature to make it work.”


“In terms of difficulties facing apprentices, another important point to recognise it that it is a different world now to the one many of us knew when we were growing up and that has its impact on the apprentices of today.

“My dad brought me up the strict, old way. We didn’t have any money. I never expected anything because I knew I had to work for everything I got. Getting anything you wanted was simply out of the question because you just couldn’t afford it.

“I went out to work to get the things I wanted. When you’ve got nothing, it is easier to go out and do that. Nowadays though it is harder for most kids, not only apprentices, to gain that work ethic because a lot of them live in nice houses with swimming pools or jacuzzis. They’ve got television sets in their rooms. They play tv games. Those are all luxuries. We had none.

“It’s great that they can afford it but it can, and does, take the edge off the need to succeed in your career and that is one of the reasons why so much talent is squandered.


“That brings us directly to the question of mindset.

I do believe that, with any sportsman, a positive mindset is as important as your ability.

“Any sportsman has got to ooze confidence … especially jockeys because we are not out there by ourselves. We are working with animals and your confidence levels feed off to the animal. If you are down that will feed off in a negative way so your mindset as a jockey is really important.

“You have got to have a strong mindset. If you haven’t got one you have got to create one otherwise it is going bite your arse more times than not. A strong mindset coupled with that self-discipline I mentioned earlier is worth its weight in gold.

“If you have that strong mindset, you will stay focussed on what is important in your career.

“I try and tell the younger guys, especially my children when they are riding, to learn something from every horse they ride. I tell them I don’t want to see the walking and joking with their mates. It is not time to joke … it is time to be serious.

“You have to concentrate every moment you are on a horse. Every second you are on it something can go wrong. They must concentrate and learn and ask themselves questions. Why am I not getting on with this horse? What else can I try? It is a mind-game and it is difficult but so exciting all at once.

“Remember all horses are different and not even the same horse always acts the same every time you get on it. They wake up in different moods which means you just can’t take anything for granted. You must always … always … be one hundred percent switched on.

“People often say to me, God you look a misery on a horse. No, I’m not a misery. This is my life. I’m just concentrating. I don’t go around joking with the public and saying hello to everybody.

“When I get on it is me and this animal. I’m already trying to mentally see where I am going with him. Some horses you have got to be kind to. Some horses you want to be aggressive with … and you can only make the correct judgement call on what to do if you are concentrating fully on what you are feeling … by that I mean the horse is telling you.

“I view every horse as a challenge. You are dealing with animals so you can try to get a troublesome horse to change its ways by being kind to it, or tricking it … whatever you can do. If I get a horse that is pulling hard, or hanging or doing something wrong, I get great pleasure out of getting him to go better for me because then I know I’ve won that challenge for that day.

“It’s all part of the game of race riding. It’s all about continually trying to improve yourself. It will always be a work in progress.”


As with any work in progress there will always be changes made over time.

“I have changed my riding style along the way.

“The late Pat Eddery had what they called a ‘bouncing style’ which worked really well for him. He was champion jockey eleven times, he won fourteen classics, including three Epsom Derby’s and also won the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe four times.

“I adopted a similar style of riding to Eddery and I know that particular style has confounded some people in Australia but there is a whole lot more to it than just bouncing up and down.

“It is never easy to change styles but, when I changed, I also didn’t find it that hard. The actual difficulty comes in in terms of the time it takes until you become entirely comfortable with the new style so that it becomes second nature.

“It’s hard to explain the process when you take on something like that. When you watch of video of Eddery in action, for example, a lot of people will just see somebody bouncing up and down but he’s not just going up and down on a horse’s back. That doesn’t help. There’s more to it.

“When you really watch the video in terms of trying to learn something you try to get an idea of what he is feeling and how the horse and rider are working together.

"That is always the major objective. It is hard to explain but you work along the lines of discovering the advantage that can be found in a particular riding style … and you have to accept that, if you change styles, it takes a long time to get it right.

“Again, you have got to have self-belief that you are working in the right direction and not give up.

“I think I’ve worked it out now. I don’t bounce on every horse. That style will work on certain horses and not work on others. It is just another weapon really that certain horses respond to and it is up to me to work out when to use it. You don’t have to always use it but it can be useful.

“The bottom line is that jockeys should never be afraid to tweak their riding style. Even a small improvement can make a big difference.”


“Finally, there is always the argument about how many jockeys are truly good horseman.

I think that is a difficult question to answer.

I have to say that, to do the job we are doing, you have to be a good horseman … otherwise you wouldn’t be able to do it.

“You are on animal, racing at speed … going flat out, not just hacking or trotting, making split second decisions so you won’t survive too long in the job if you are not reasonably good at what you do.

“Having said that … and this is why some people might see that division in the ranks … I have known a lot of riders who are good horseman but who just don’t use that talent properly. They just don’t use it.

“It might be that they lose their temper too quickly when something happens in race and they lose concentration at the same time. It might be they are not getting chances and they have got the shits with the game.

“It really is a tough game out there … mentally and physically … and in that sort of environment some will always stand out above others but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are not all good riders in their own right.

Till next time.

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Jeff Lloyd
Jeff Lloyd
Lloyd is a proud family man ...
Lloyd is a proud family man ...
… and there can be no doubt his family are proud of him
… and there can be no doubt his family are proud of him
Lloyd pictured with part of his fan-club ...
Lloyd pictured with part of his fan-club ...
… and receiving more adulation from family and friends
… and receiving more adulation from family and friends
Bringing back yet another winner
Bringing back yet another winner
Getting animated when discussing tactics with trainer Matthew Dunn pre-race
Getting animated when discussing tactics with trainer Matthew Dunn pre-race
Photos: Graham Potter
Photos: Graham Potter
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