The Most Dangerous Occupation in Australia

Michael Walker hits the track at Caulfield, both horse and jockey pulled up fine. Photo: Thoroughbred news

In 2009, the Medical Journal of Australia revealed that being a jockey is the 2nd most dangerous job in Australia with only the job of an offshore fisherman being more dangerous.

Fast-forward to 2017, and in the wake of the tragic passing of Darren Jones at Warialda, the Menzies Institute released a report with the following statement:

“The occupation of a Jockey is now the most dangerous in Australia. It is a requirement for an ambulance to follow the field in every race,” it read.

“A jockey weighing 50-60kg riding a 550kg thoroughbred at 60km per hour does not allow much margin for error.” 

Just to give readers a sense of the real dangers of being a jockey, the following statistics are also taken from the 2017 Menzies Institute report:

– In excess of 880 Australian jockeys have been killed in race falls since 1847.
– Approximately 200 riders are injured each year on Australian racetracks.
– Combined with track work, there are approximately 500 falls annually.
– 89% of jockeys will have a fall that requires medical assistance.
– 9% have fallen more than 20 times.
– Each year 40% of jockeys will have a fall that will prevent them from riding for an average of 5 weeks.
– Approximately 5% of these falls would be termed career-ending injuries.
– Over 50% of Australian jockeys earn less than $60,000 per year (before expenses).
– It is estimated that in the next 10 years we will see 10-12 jockey deaths and 50 jockeys will suffer career ending injuries including paraplegia, quadriplegia and severe brain injury.

In the last five days the topic has become a hot talking point once again with two very nasty falls at Tamworth and Morphettville. In both falls, multiple horses came down and multiple jockeys were left severely injured.

Fortunately for everyone involved, no loss of human life occurred and based on all reports, each jockey should get back to the track in due time.

The general news and stories regarding jockeys and horse racing in recent times has been very negative, especially with the announcement that Tye Angland is now a quadriplegic after his horror fall in Hong Kong in late 2018.

Mainstream media has further highlighted this quarrelsome topic after it was discovered that the reason behind the Tamworth fall was due to the lead horse suffering a heart attack in the run. 

This is compounded by the fact that the Menzies Institute report highlighted that the least experienced jockeys were more often involved in falls, especially when paired with younger, or inexperienced races horses.

Kevin Ring from the Australian Jockeys Association voiced this same sentiment regarding the preparation for Australian apprentices.

“We are rushing them through the system and with all of the racing we have, Masters just don’t have the time to train their apprentices like they used to,” Ring said.

“We have all of these tight tracks in the country with big fields, add to that these inexperienced jockeys on sometimes harder to handle horses and you have a higher chance of falls.”

Based on the information at our fingertips and the prevalence of race riding injuries, NSW Country and Picnic Racing pose this question to our readers. What can our administration bodies do to reduce the risk of falls in racing and training scenarios? 

Author’s Note – I want this article to remind racing fans of the inherent risks to jockeys, who essentially compete for our entertainment every single day.

It is easy for us to say what they should’ve or could’ve done better, yet most of us wouldn’t have a clue if we were put on a bullocking 550kg horse at 60km per hour; so who are we really to judge?

On that note, I want to make a special mention to the National Jockey’s Trust, who raises money through state administrators and donations from the public.

Their prerogative is to provide financial relief and other benefits to former and current jockeys, and their families in times of financial hardship.

I’ll paste a link below so readers can visit their page, read some of the stories and maybe even make a small donation to help the National Jockeys Trust continue their work.