Without any fear, children aged 5-9 race on horseback at up to 80km per hour. In Sumbawa Island, West Nusa Tenggara, a horseback racing tradition involves child jockeys.
The talent for horseback racing is passed on from generation to generation. Children learn to let go of their fear, even with the very real risk of falling, becoming maimed, or dying during the race.
The local government and parents consider this tradition an important part of their culture, which must be preserved. Even with all the risks and dangers involved, no one cares for the safety of these child jockeys. Not even standard safety horse riding gear is provided.
Besides safety, there are other concerns for the welfare of these children. Preparation and training for the horse riding races interferes with their education. Each year there are at least ten horse races. Each racing event takes at least ten days. This adds up, and every year these child jockeys are missing 100 days of school.
No one views the situation as exploitation of children. The children are paid a small fee for each race of around Rp 20,000 to 50,000 rupiah (two to five USD). But the real money involved is from the betting at each race, which is not monitored or banned by the authorities.
Photographs & Text: Romi Perbawa