Jockeys in Summit Spotlight

This week, the Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit brought new suggestions and recommendations to light to create a safer environment for horse racing. Over the years horses have been the main focus of the summit, so as to prevent deaths on the racecourse and provide equine athletes with the health and safety measures they deserve. However, at the latest summit the idea of creating a jockey injury database was brought to the forefront for serious consideration. By creating such a database, members of the summit hope to be able to find solutions to offer a safer environment for jockeys.

In the year 2006 a great debate was sparked by the tragic breakdown of champion race horse Barbaro. When statistics were requested in regard to general injuries on the racecourses, none could be provided, which led to equine injury database being created. This database is supported by 86 racecourses that regularly send through the relative information to keep the database updated. When looking at injuries suffered by jockeys, it was found that since 1940, 128 jockeys have lost their lives to the sport and approximately sixty jockeys are living with spinal cord injuries and brain injuries suffered while racing. There is a Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund that provides these jockeys with a small aid fund, but members of the summit are hoping that more can be done. It is believed that by creating a database on jockey injuries, investigating the causes of the injuries and trying to find safety measures to reduce injuries, it will be possible to create a safer workplace for both horses and jockeys. Equine Medical Director (California Horse Racing Board), Rick Arthur, commented that assessing the risks faced by jockeys and horses is vital to establish safety precautions, saying: “Identifying where the risks are so that you can hopefully develop strategies to reduce that risk.” He went on to say: “That’s what all this is about, whether it’s risk to jockeys or risk to the horses.”

Other issues raised by the summit included working with racecourses to find alternative retirement solutions for racehorses to avoid slaughter, the establishment of medical and rescue facilities and creating a program especially to assist retired horses.