The Monkey Crouch
A new study in regard to jockey positioning on a horse, has revealed that a change in how jockeys used to ride, to the style that is known today and which was referred to as the Monkey Crouch, has increased the speeds that horses are able to run. The study has sparked discussion and criticism, as many in the industry believe that there are many factors that can affect a horse during a race, but the study has only focused on the positioning of the jockey and how the known method of riding has improved the racing industry.
Legendary jockeys such as Jerry Bailey will tell you that, “A great jockey cannot make a slow horse win, but a bad jockey can get a great horse beat.” It is also true that a horse’s nutrition, fitness and ability play a crucial role in horse racing, but jockeys are the sometimes fortunate pilots that steer their mounts to victory, or the unfortunate fall guys that are blamed for a poor performance, due a decision made by them. But it is the positioning that researchers were interested in, and the results were amazing.
Since the start of horse racing and through most of the 1800s, jockeys used to sit up straight in the saddle, with long stirrups. African-American jockeys began to develop a new way of riding, with the stirrups being much shorter and bunching up into a motionless position above the saddle. African American jockey, Willie Simms began using this technique in the year 1895, but it was the American jockey Tod Sloan who really put the method on the map in 1897, which led to the position being nicknamed the Monkey Crouch, which was eventually accepted as the required racing seat.
Through the study, it has been revealed that the position change of the jockey has increased the average racing time by between five to seven percent. Sitting in a seated position creates more work for the horse, as they don’t only have to carry the weight of the jockey, but move the jockey through every stride. Standing in the saddle lessens the load on the horse, as he only has to carry the weight, and can move more freely and comfortable. It was also found that oscillating (moving arms forward and backward with the movement of the horse) with a racehorse, assists in their performance effort. No matter what some horsemen in the horse racing industry believe, science has proved through extensive testing with jockeys and horse inertial sensors, is that how they perch themselves in the saddle, has provided racing with faster athletes, and makes one look a little closer at the roles played by jockeys in the development of the sport.