Alain Schroeder: Kid Jockeys

Alain Schroeder’s series on the kid jockeys of Sumbawa, Indonesia is the first runner up in the series category of the 2019 Focus on the Story Awards. Schroeder is a Belgian photojournalist, who 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 and participated in numerous exhibitions worldwide. He is represented in Paris by the photo agency HEMIS

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. He was also a winner in the series and single image category in the 2018 Focus on the Story Awards.

From Alain’s submission: “Horse racing or Maen Jaran, is a favorite pastime in Sumbawa, Indonesia. Kid jockeys, 5 -10 years old, mount bareback, barefoot and with little to no protective gear, racing at speeds of up to 80 kms per hour. 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. 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 many times in one day, and every day during the racing week, pushed by parents and relatives given the potential earnings that far outweigh the poor returns on crops often plagued by drought.”

All images © Alain Schroeder. You can see more of his work on his website.

Riders will mount 5 to 6 times a day for several consecutive days. For 3,50 to 7 euros per mount.
A child kockey straddles the starting gate in anticipation of mounting his horse. Behind, trainers prepare to position the horses in the blocks.
A jockey prepares for the gate to open as his trainer leans over him to make some final adjustments.
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.
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.
Young jockey Eggi (7years old) is carried off the track after being thrown from his horse near the finish.  He’s back in the race the following day despite his bruises.
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.