3. Steeple Chase Racing – The Dangers to the Jockey

Date: 4 August 2022
Steeple Chase Racing

Steeple Chase Racing – The Dangers to the Jockey


Jockeys in steeple chasing often fall off resulting in serious injuries like concussions, head injuries, being paralyzed, ligament ruptures, soft tissue trauma, bone breaks all over, eye injuries, organ injuries, internal bleeding and cuts and bruises and death!

More recent data from the United States suggests that the injury rates remain high, with about 20% being head or neck injuries and 20% being upper limb injuries. In a survey of about 2700 licensed jockeys, most injuries (42%) were the result of being thrown from the horse or struck by the horse’s head (23%). Being thrown from the horse accounted for most of the severe injuries. Interestingly 35% of injuries occurred at the starting gate, including 30% of head injuries, 40% of upper limb injuries, and 52% of lower limb injuries.

Though injuries saddened many in the steeplechase world, fans insist that the sport is no more perilous than many other sports. Jockeys admit, however, that steeplechase has high risks.

Charles Colgan, executive vice president of the National Steeplechase Association, said the organization does not keep records of injuries. But he said, “The injury rate is not as high as one would expect. When riding horses jump over fences, the danger is always that the horse is going to make a mistake and fall.”

A review of the literature shows a paucity of information on the incidence and type of injuries suffered by professional jockeys. This review is designed to both critically appraise the available literature and provide a detailed breakdown of race riding injuries in Great Britain and Ireland for 1992–2000.

Since 1992, considerable changes have been introduced in the monitoring of race riding injuries, the type of protective equipment compulsorily worn by professional jockeys, and the medical arrangements available on racecourses. Analysis of the injury rates over this period will highlight these specific issues.

In Great Britain in the year 2000, a total of 107 flat racing jockeys and 90 jump jockeys had full registration, and 128 flat apprentices and 128 jump apprentices were registered. In addition, 462 amateur jockeys were registered for flat racing and 468 for jump racing. Male jockeys dominated the professional sport, with four female flat jockeys, 32 female flat racing apprentices, three female jump jockeys, two female jump apprentices, and 168 female amateur jockeys registered. For the same year in Ireland, 59 flat jockeys, 85 apprentice flat jockeys, and 133 jump jockeys were registered. No information is available on the sex of these riders. These rates of female jockeys are low by comparison with some US studies, which show 25–30% female participation rates.

In Great Britain, professional horse racing is conducted on 59 racecourses (two in Wales, five in Scotland, and 52 in England). Each racecourse is responsible for an average of 20 race meetings per annum (range 5–63), and a total of 1050 meetings were held in 2000. The highest number of meetings on any one day is 11 jump meetings and six flat meetings. In Ireland, horse racing is conducted on 27 racecourses. Each racecourse is responsible for an average of 10 race meetings per annum with a total of 270 meetings held in 2000.

The shortest flat race distance is 5 furlongs (1 km or 0.625 miles), and the longest race distance is 2.75 miles (4.4 km). For jump racing, the distances vary between 2 and 4.5 miles (3.2–7.2 km).


Jump jockeys and jump racing and statistics

The information is as for flat jockeys, except that young jump jockeys are referred to as “conditional” riders as opposed to “apprentice riders”. Jump jockeys normally retire before they reach the age of 40.

During the study period, the maximum number of rides per season by a single jump jockey was 858 and the maximum number of wins in a single season was 245. The corresponding values for a conditional/apprentice were 374 rides and 51 wins. The maximum number of falls by a single jockey was 51, and 31 for a conditional.

In jump racing, there are separate events that involve two types of obstacles: hurdle and steeplechase fences. A hurdle race involves only hurdle fences, and a steeplechase only involves steeplechase fences. All jockeys normally ride over both types of fence. All fences are made of birch, spruce, and timber.

The tops of hurdle fences are required to be no more than 3 feet 1 inch (94 cm) above the ground. There must be at least eight hurdles in the first 2 miles (3.2 km) of the race and one additional hurdle for every additional 0.25 miles (0.4 km) of the race. Steeplechase fences vary both in height and type. Plain and open ditch steeple fences must be a minimum of 4 feet 6 inches (1.37 m). Water jump fences must be a minimum of 3 feet (91.4 cm), have a uniform depth of water 3 inches (7.6 cm), and the width of water to jump must be a minimum of 9 feet (2.74 m). There must be at least 12 fences in the first 2 miles (3.2 km) of a steeplechase race and at least six additional fences for every additional mile (1.6 km). Only one jump may be a water jump, but there must be at least one open ditch per mile of the race.

In Great Britain, for the year 2000, racing involved 12 586 horses in training, 8360 owners, and 525 trainers. For each meeting, an average of 25 jockeys are in attendance (range 13–83). In the same year in Ireland, racing involved 4776 horses in training, 3500 owners, and 372 trainers.










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South African Suppliers

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To all you avid gamers out there, here are some horse racing games for you to enjoy!

Phar Lap

Champion Jockey

Gallop Racer

Melbourne Cup Challenge


If you think you have what it takes to be a Jockey and for the love of the game, consult with your local Racing body to provide all the answers you need to get started.


Please note: I do not take any responsibility for an accident, disability, death, public liability, third party, medical costs, destruction of property, damages to self or others, destruction of all equipment, disability, personal liability, general liability, self-harm, suicide, harm to livestock, harm to animals, harm to children and intentional bodily harm, for using any of the listed products and suppliers. Please consult with the manufacturers and instructors, when buying the equipment that is suitable for you.

My views, comments and content are strictly of my own opinion and research and are not governed or influenced by any marketing of companies or brands. It is of my own free will to mention companies and brands that supply sporting equipment pertaining to the sport in the discussion.

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Please send me an email at” info@tanyasworldofsports.co.za