Please Update your browser

Your browser is out of date, and may not be compatible with our website. A list of the most popular web browsers can be found below.
Just click on the icons to get to the download page.

Jakarta Post

The young celebrities of traditional horse racing

Wed, March 11, 2020   /   04:57 pm
  • /

    In a flash: Jockeys ride at high speed while horse owners and spectators cheer from the stands. JP/Hotli Simanjuntak

  • /

    Get in there: Staff members of the organizing committee wrestle a horse to the starting line before a race. JP/Hotli Simanjuntak

  • /

    On his mark: Ari, a small jockey, is preparing to ride his horse. This 14-year-old jockey, who started his career last year, is respected by his opponents. JP/Hotli Simanjuntak

  • /

    Sweet victory: Ari reaches the finish line as champion. JP/Hotli Simanjuntak

  • /

    Head to head: Ari (right) paces his horse to get to the finish line before his opponent does. JP/Hotli Simanjuntak

  • /

    Getting ready: A little jockey is waiting for his turn to compete in the Gayo highland’s traditional horseracing competition. JP/Hotli Simanjuntak

Hotli Simanjuntak

At only 14, Ari is already a celebrity jockey at the local Sengeda Racecourse of Karang Rejo village in Bukit district, Bener Meriah regency, Aceh.

During a recent race, Ari finished crossed the finish line to claim the championship amid the applause and cheers of spectators.

With a broad smile, Ari led his horse to the podium to receive their well-deserved prize.

“I expected this horse to win, it runs fast enough to beat all competitors,” Ari said, a little out of breath.

Ari won four races that day riding four racehorses. The horses’ owners trusted him as their jockey because of his experience and skills in handling the animals. He is also considered to be a “lucky little jockey” who started his racing career last year, and is respected by his challengers.

Horse owners can hire anyone to be their jockey. A good jockey will have constant work, and their fees increase in accordance with their racing record. Jockeys’ pay scale follows no strict standards, and can range from a few hundred thousand to millions of rupiah.

“It depends on the horse owner, there is no fixed rate,” said Ari.

Ari finds working as a jockey enjoyable and challenging. Nearly all men in the Gayo highlands of Aceh are horse riders, but only a handful are jockeys that compete in bareback racing.

Traditional horse racing has lasted through the generations in the Gayo highlands, and the event is usually held after the local harvest season.

Today, the tradition has become a regular event in the three highland regencies of Gayo Lues, Bener Meriah and Central Aceh.

Unusually, highland horse racing always involves young jockeys aged between 12 and 18. Unlike conventional horse racing, Gayo races do not use saddles.

The adolescent jockeys do not just aim for the race prizes; they also compete for the pride and honor of winning a race.