Hurdle Racing Faces Safety Issues
The hurdle racing industry in Victoria, Australia, has taken quite a blow, with all hurdle racing events being cancelled for the remainder of the year. The decision was taken by Judge David Jones, in the interest of the safety of both jockeys and horses. Injuries, some fatal, suffered by horses during these events have raised concerns and all steeplechase races have been suspended until an independent survey has been done and recommendations to improve the safety of steeplechase horses have been looked at.
Many jumps horse trainers have been affected by this decision, but they have also given their support to finding workable solutions. Some trainers have been in the industry their whole lives, with jump training being a part of a family’s history. Even though the suspension is inconvenient, they all agree that any positive changes made to the sport can only benefit steeplechase racing in the future.
Most of the horses used in hurdle racing are retired flat racing racehorses and steeplechase racing gives them a second chance in many instances. However, is seems that the modular hurdles are the biggest concern. Trainers also feel that some jumps are too soft, getting horses into a relaxed frame of mind and not lifting their legs high enough to clear the hurdle. Some have also mentioned that the fact that steeplechase racing is becoming too fast is also a concern, as horses are too low to make the jump and are moving too fast to slow down to a comfortable speed to jump from.
The issues to be addressed with the investigation into the safety of steeplechase athletes includes looking at how many jumps there are in the course and what the hurdle distances are from the barrier. Hurdles themselves will also be looked at, for instance how they are constructed and the safety concerns in regard to them. The suspension of hurdle racing will not be permanent and it is hoped that solutions to the issues are found and that recommendations can be made to ensure that steeplechase racing can continue, but in a safer and more secure environment. Making changes to the industry can only have a positive outcome for the horses and the jockeys that ride them. Even though some are nervous that a ban of the sport might be looming, officials have commented that no drastic measures are being looked at, and that the investigation was established to find answers to the most pressing matters.