Jockeying for a Safer Workplace

August 10th, 2005 by

You may think your job has some hazards, but I would guess these risks pale beside the dangers of riding a thoroughbred horse. We all think of jockeys as the vertically challenged masters of very impressive creatures, which indeed they are. An average thoroughbred weighs about 1,100 pounds. The jockey trying to control him is not allowed to tip the scales in the buff above 111 pounds.
Jockeys have been trying to improve their working conditions since the 1940s, when a few riders led by the legendary Eddie Arcaro and Jonny Longden met in secret to develop a strategy. Their clandestine efforts led to the formation of the Jockey’s Guild — for an extensive and fascinating history, check out their website. You will learn that the legendary Bill Shoemaker retired in 1990, only to suffer a terrible auto accident in 1991, which left him paralyzed. The cause of the accident? Reaching for his cell phone!
The fate of jockeys is a state by state issue. New York seems to have led the way, creating a special fund to cover work-related injuries for jockeys racing at New York tracks. It’s funded by a small flat fee ($420 a year paid by owners and trainers), a stall fee, and a percentage of winner’s purses capped at $2,000. New Jersey, Maryland and California have followed suit, addressing not only workers comp coverage, but safety related issues as well. The Guild fought for and achieved a universal safety standard that requires helmets and padded vests for jockeys.
If you think that the legendary horse racing state of Kentucky is in the vanguard of protecting jockeys, think again. The Blue Grass state has yet to solve the problem of comp coverage for jockeys. The Jockeys want owners and racetracks to foot the bill for expanded workers