© Les Hippodromes de Lyon
Out and about A DAY WITH
Un jour avec un jockey
© Susie Waroude
Both a jockey and a trainer, Yoann Bonnefoy plays a dual role at the training centre of Chazey-sur-Ain. This is the story of a life lived at full gallop.
You would need to rise early to see Yoann and his team take care of their mounts. In summer, their work begins at five in the morning. Right up until 11 am, the horses are taken out for training in order to physically prepare them for the races. “We ride around five horses each,” tells us Yoann. After feeding the horses and cleaning the stables, they often have to leave around midday for races in Paris, Marseille, La Teste or elsewhere. “When we do a race in Lyon, it’s more relaxing,” he says half-jokingly, as life on the racecourses is like a film in fast forward. In the space of an afternoon, a jockey can ride in up to eight races! “And because they are increasingly held in the evening, we find ourselves having to do the return trip at night,” he continues. In short, there is little time to rest because they start all over again the next day!
Are jockeys a strange breed?
“We have to be mentally and physically resilient for sure. There are more demands than benefits,” he admits, before listing the winning trio for a successful career: “In this line of work, you need to truly love horses and speed, and have a competitive streak. It’s something you get hooked on when you’re young.” Yoann saddled up for his first race at the tender age of 16. That was 14 years ago. As is the case with high-level athletes, the career of a jockey is often short: what with the strict diet to stay lean, constant travelling and frequent accidents, it is rare for riders to continue racing into their 50s, although it is not unheard of.
Five years ago, Yoann had a very bad fall that led him to bring forward his change of direction: “I still ride in races, but soon I will switch to being a full-time trainer.” His aim will then be to nurture new talent and train the next generation of jockeys. Before he hangs up his riding boots for good, come and see him compete at one of the two hippodromes in Lyon – La Soie and Parilly – where weekly races are held, including trotting, galloping, flat racing, jump racing and harness racing.
To (re)discover the world of racing, make your way to Parilly on the 24th of September for the ‘Hippodrome en Fête’ day. The programme includes eight races, rides in an assistance car following the riders (reservation required), a tour behind the scenes, beginner pony rides, games for children and more. Entrance: €5 for adults / €3 for students / free for under-18s.
Par Paulina Jonquères d’Oriola