B&WEuropeFeaturedStoryKid Jockeys by Alain Schroeder

Once a game between neighbors to celebrate a good harvest, horse racing was transformed into a spectator sport by the Dutch in the 20th century to entertain officials and nobility.

Once a game between neighbors to celebrate a good harvest, horse racing was transformed into a spectator sport by the Dutch in the 20th century to entertain officials and nobility.

The unique features of Sumbawa racing are the notoriously small horses and fearless child jockeys, aged 5-10, who mount bareback, barefoot and with little protective gear racing at speeds of up to 80 kms per hour. Their only protection is the « Sandro », a spiritual healer who protects young jockeys by performing elaborate rituals and guiding them in training. Maen Jaran (the Indonesian name of the game) takes place during important festivals and holidays throughout the year at racetracks across the island and remains a favorite pastime for Sumbawans. Rules have evolved, horses are now classified by age and height, yet kid jockeys continue to risk their lives for 3,50 to 7 euros per mount often racing 5 to 6 times a day for a week, pushed by parents and relatives given the potential earnings that far outweigh the poor returns on crops often plagued by drought.

Alain Schroeder is a Belgian photojournalist born in 1955. In 1989 he founded Reporters, a well-known photo agency in Belgium. He has illustrated over thirty books dedicated to China, Persia, the Renaissance, Ancient Rome, the Gardens of Europe, Thailand, Tuscany, Crete, Vietnam, Budapest, Venice, the Abbeys of Europe, Natural Sites of Europe, etc.  Belgian titles include, « Le Carnaval de Binche vu par 30 Photographes », and « Processions de Foi, Les Marches de l’Entre-Sambre-et-Meuse ».  Publications include National Geographic, Geo, Paris-Match,…

He has won many international awards including a Japan Nikon Award 2017 for the Rohingya series, the TPOTY Travel Photographer of the Year Award 2017 with the series Living for Death and the series Kushti, and 1st prize at World Press Photo 2018 for the series Kid Jockeys in the category Sports Stories,… and participated in numerous exhibitions worldwide. He is represented in Belgium by Reporters and in France by the photo agency HEMIS. [Official Website]

Horse racing or Maen Jaran, is a favorite pastime in Sumbawa, Indonesia.

A child kockey straddles the starting gate in anticipation of mounting his horse. Behind, trainers prepare to position the horses in the blocks.

Every jockey is accompanied onto the track by his Sandro where he, the numbered jersey he’ll wear and the horse he will ride are blessed before each race. The boy is then handed off to the trainer who will carry the young jockey down the long straightaway to the starting gate.

Horse racing or Maen Jaran, is a favorite pastime in Sumbawa, Indonesia.

Sandro, Haji Abdul Latif (69) holds a jimal (amulet) over his grandson’s head and recites a prayer to give 6 year old Aldiansah strength and keep him safe. The Sandro is the spiritual healer who protects young jockeys by performing elaborate rituals and guiding them in training. Aldiansah, who started riding at age 3, eats a hearty breakfast in preparation for 5 races today. He is not afraid.

A jockey prepares for the gate to open as his trainer leans over him to make some final adjustments.

Horse racing or Maen Jaran, is a favorite pastime in Sumbawa, Indonesia.

Horse racing or Maen Jaran, is a favorite pastime in Sumbawa, Indonesia.

Two jockeys walking on the racetrack.

Horse racing or Maen Jaran, is a favorite pastime in Sumbawa, Indonesia.

Boys climb into the trees along the track for a good view of the race.

After a day of racing, horses are taken for a cooling bath. All the kids in the neighborhood take adavantage of the moment to play with the horses in the river. Here a young jockey playfully bonds with his horse outside the serious atmosphere of the racetrack.

Sandro, Haji Abdul Latif (69) pours water over his grandson’s head as he recites a prayer to give 6 year old Aldiansah strength and keep him safe.

After a day of racing, horses are taken for a cooling bath. All the kids in the neighborhood take adavantage of the moment to play with the horses in the river. Here a young jockey playfully bonds with his horse outside the serious atmosphere of the racetrack.

Sandro, Haji Abdul Latif (69) gently rests his forehead against his horse’s cheek, transmitting his spiritual energy to the animal. He ends the ritual by gently blowing on him.

Men watching the races in the tribune.

Onlookers, protect themselves from the sun with whatever is at hand.

Hands waiting for the trucks to take the horses home after a day of racing.

After a day of racing, horses are taken to the sea for a cooling bath followed by a fresh water rinse.

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