Too young to race?

November 26, 2012

Bima, Indonesia

By Beawiharta

The prize for a horse race in Indonesia’s Sumbawa Besar town is woven silk fabric but the prize in Bima is two cows and $100.

I covered the Bima horse races because they use child jockeys, aged between 8 to 12-years-old.

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I thought they would be way too small to ride a horse. When I arrived at the race course on the outskirts of Bima, the day’s racing was finished and the jockeys were heading to the beach to wash the horses. I watched as they played happily with the horses. Even though they still looked too small for the horses, they also looked at ease. Some fell off their horses and into the water but they were still laughing. They didn’t seem to have any worries, just kids enjoying their world.

People who live in the region have a horse culture – using them for transportation and children learn to ride at 6-years-old. I would absolutely not permit my children to race horses, but the children here are different. They have known these horses since they were young and are just like friends.

Almost all the families here have horses, but they aren’t always kept at their houses. Sumbawa Island’s local government provides extensive land on the slopes of Mount Tambora for the horses. This is provided free, no need to pay rent for the land and no taxes on the horses. There are thousands of wild horses released by their owners on the slopes.

So, I understand why the children are at ease with the horses but, for me, they are still too young to race.

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