Warning jockeys suffer burnout at twice the rate of other athletes

A jockeys’ chief has revealed members of the weighing room suffer burnout at twice the rate of other professional athletes.

Dale Gibson aired his concerns following the publication of the 2021 fixture list, with limited breaks for Flat jockeys this summer.

Just three guaranteed days without racing between mid-April and the start of October are pencilled in.

Gibson, racing executive director for the Professional Jockeys’ Association, said the relentless schedule can often impact on the mental health of participants.

“Due to the Covid-related changes to the fixture list this summer, Flat jockeys, valets and other racing staff will see 167 days of racing with only three guaranteed days off between April 19 and October 2,” he said.

“Participants in racing are not afraid of long days and hard work, but that is a tough gig in anyone’s book.

“It is no wonder that jockeys suffer burnout at twice the rate of athletes in other professional sports and that more than 25 per cent of PJA members accessed some form of one-to-one mental health support in 2020.

Jockeys making their way to Cheltenham’s parade ring at the October 2020 meeting

“2022 needs to see a combination of extended breaks and more single-code Sundays.

“The sport needs to pay more than lip service to participant welfare and any post-Covid financial recovery plan must balance maximising financial returns with the welfare of jockeys, trainers and racing staff.

Gibson added that riders found two breaks in the Flat season in March and November of “significant benefit,” as well as the National Hunt holiday in August.

Since racing resumed from the Covid-19 shutdown, jockeys have been restricted to competing at one meeting a day.

The British Horseracing Authority plans to review this rule in future, as well as restoring minimum prize-money levels to pre-Covid levels.

They said the programme of 1,486 meetings, five fewer than in 2020, was developed “with a view to maximising revenue for the sport and participants, while safeguarding participant well-being and taking account of the horse population.”

The volume of flat races in July and August has also been reduced “to ensure competitive racing and safeguard against possible reductions in horses in training as a result of the pandemic.”

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