In Pictures: Indonesia's child jockeys - Al Jazeera English

In Pictures: Indonesia's child jockeys

On the island of Sumbawa, children aged five to nine years old race horses - and often have the scars to show for it.

Syarina Hasibuan | | Human Rights, Sport, Asia Pacific, Indonesia

On the Indonesian island of Sumbawa, horse racing is a major part of the local culture. But unlike horse racing in many other parts of the world, the jockeys here are children between the ages of five and nine years old.

They are the children of poor families who work as horse caretakers. Being a child jockey often runs in the family, and children frequently learn to ride a horse as soon as they can walk. Falling off horses is common - and many child jockeys have the scars to show for it.

The races are held in three different districts on the island of Sumbawa. Families travel to whichever district the race is held in, putting up tents, sleeping without mattresses, and cooking outdoors. The children do not attend school during this period.

Many people in Sumbawa believe in magic, and that the family's shaman or a talisman can protect their children. If a child falls in a race, they believe the shaman will heal him. The shaman will give him a massage and pray for him, and then the child will be ready to race again soon. Modern forms of medical assistance are nowhere to be seen at the races, which can be dangerous: A photographer who has been documenting the horse races for four years has recorded two deaths since 2007.

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