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Too Young to Ride

Culture

The starting box gate opens and the horses burst forward as the spectators begin to cheer and the gamblers raise their cash. Amidst this noisy applause and merriment, children are hanging on as firmly as they can to their horses as they gallop at a lightning pace down the track. These are the little jockeys, competing bareback and without any safety kit whatsoever, in a race filled with the risk of accidents that could lead to injuries or death – in the name of preserving a tradition. To the people of Sumbawa Island in Indonesia, the tradition of horse racing or “pacoa jara” is inseparable from life. In these island with a passion for raising horses, races take place almost every year with up to 10 series on five tracks in three districts. Each series lasts eight to ten days with hundreds of horses participating. What makes racing different in Sumbawa is that the jockeys are all boys aged between five and ten years old. For every race as a jockey, the boys are paid between Rp 50,000 and Rp 100,000 (US$ 5-10) depending on their finish position. There can be up to 20 races every day during the racing season, and these little jockeys generally get in the saddle some 15 times.

Journalist & Photographer

Putu Sayoga