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Safety in horse racing: Inside story

Safety2

Like many other sports, horseracing has its fair share of injury and even death. A MEDICAL Journal of Australia study has found that being a jockey is more dangerous than being a boxer. Jockeys also had a higher risk of fatality than participants in sports such as skydiving and motorcycling, according to US-based research.

Often a horse race ends in tragedy when a horse sustains an injury that leads to its death, or worse, a jockey falls and dies from a massive head injury. Insurance claims arising from racing accidents amounted to AU$9 million a year between 2002 and 2010. Some reviews and investigations have been done on the subject, but reports are few and far in between, and one wonders what safety regulations have actually been implemented, and are enforced, to control the risks to horse and rider.

Jockey protection

Until some solid strategies come into effect to properly manage safety, how can the risks be reduced? Racing NSW, the regulating body for thoroughbred racing in NSW, states the following regarding safety vests and skullcaps, which are two items that can reduce the risk of injury to a rider:

“AR87B requires that every rider when mounted on a horse must wear a properly fastened APPROVED safety vest that conforms to the standard prescribed by Racing Australia” and “skull caps are no longer serviceable after five (5) years has expired since the date of manufacture. Furthermore, if the skullcap sustains a severe impact or if the rider suffers from concussion following a fall, the skull cap must immediately be replaced”.

Horse protection?

The Australian Horse Industry Council has recently revised the “Horse Safe Code of Practice”, which is a living document that includes a number of provisions relating to the health, hygiene, amenity and safety of horses, but is not a complete horse welfare code. There seems to be a lack of standards or specific equipment that promotes the safety of horses. Of course, the ultimate solution would be to give in to animal rights activists who want horseracing to be stopped altogether, or at least show jumping, which seems to carry a higher risk of injury to horses.

The ultimate outcome

Judging from what is happening to other animals in the world, it looks like we will eventually see the end of horseracing as a sport. Bullfighting has – theoretically – been abandoned in Spain. Elephants are being removed from circus acts and so are lions. It seems logical that horses will ultimately be removed from the unsafe racetrack.

Sources

http://theconversation.com/improving-safety-in-horse-racing-its-all-in-the-data-48896 http://www.smh.com.au/news/sport/horseracing/being-a-jockey-the-most-dangerous-job-on-land/ http://www.racingnsw.com.au/ http://www.horsecouncil.org.au/horse-safe/

 

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