Why jumps racing is illogical
Jumps racing has proven to be deadly for horses and dangerous for jockeys. Horses are required to clear obstacles which are at least a metre high, in a pack, at speed, and over long distances.
Despite modifications to jumps and efforts to make racing safer, horses have continued to die. We believe jumps racing will never be made safe. We believe the time has come for jumps racing in South Australia to stop.
Risking life and limb…for what?
A 2006 study conducted by the University of Melbourne1 looking at injuries and deaths associated with jumps racing in Victoria found:
- Horses who started in a jumps race were nearly 19 times more likely to die compared to horses in flat racing.
- Of the 198 horses who died as a result of jumps racing during the study period, nearly 70% suffered serious leg injuries.
- After Black Moon’s tragic demise at the Oakbank trial just days before the Easter Carnival, Distillation, who was showing great promise, by winning his trial, was immediately withdrawn from the hurdle to run in the Onkaparinga Cup instead by his owners due to the risks involved.2
More facts about jumps racing
- Horses used in jumps races are not necessarily bred for jumping. Bailey (1998)3 found that geldings who have retired from a career in flat racing form a large proportion of the Australian population of jumping horses, and therefore are older and may have predisposing injuries.
- South Australian jumps races can cover nearly 5 kilometres4, with horse and jockey required to clear more than a dozen jumps.
- A ‘distance event’ in flats racing is deemed to be run over more than 2200 metres5. Flat races are rarely held over more than 3200 metres. The average distance of jumps (hurdle and steeplechase) events on the 2014 South Australian jumps program is 3337 metres.6
- The Jones Review (2008)7 cited a scientific report conducted by Dr Tim Parkin which found the majority of jumps falls occur in the second half of the races and that found 95% of falls included some degree of contact with the fence.
- The Jones Review (2008) stated horses are more likely to make a mistake in jumping an obstacle when they are fatigued. Bourke (1994)8 also noted jumps race falls with a fatal outcome occurred more often in the later stages of the race, with the onset of fatigue leading to more errors.
What does all this tell us?
Jumps horses are generally older than their flat racing brothers and sisters. Many have already had careers racing in flat events.
When they start competing in jumps races, the horses are often toward the end of their careers and may have pre-existing bone, tendon and muscle weaknesses.
The horses are then required to race over greater distances than previously as a flats competitor. On top of that, for the first time in their racing lives, the horses are required to clear obstacles which can be more than a metre high.
No wonder the mortality rate of a jumps horse has been found to be nearly 19 times higher than a flats racing competitor.
Senate Select Committee wanted jumps racing phased out
In 1991, the Senate Select Committee on Animal Welfare stated in its report, ‘Aspects of Animal Welfare in the Racing Industry’:“Based on evidence received during the inquiry, the Committee has serious concerns about the welfare of horses participating in jumps races. Those concerns are based on the significant probability of a horse suffering serious injury or even death as a result of participating in these events, and in particular, steeplechasing…Accordingly, the Committee is of the view that the relevant State Governments should phase out jump racing over the next three years.”
This recommendation was made more than 24 years ago.
Are South Australia and Victoria out-of-step?
Despite the Select Committee recommendations, multiple reviews9 and a body of knowledge outlining the danger jumps racing poses to horses, South Australia and Victoria continue to hold jumps events.
In 2009, Racing Victoria announced it would abolish jumps racing at the conclusion of the 2010 season.10 Early in 2010, the decision was reversed11 and jumps events have continued to be sanctioned.
New South Wales, where Australia’s first jumps event was held in 1832, banned jumps racing in 1997 under the state’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979. The Tasmanian racing industry voluntarily stopped holding jumps events in 2007 due to declining popularity and because jumps events were no longer economically viable.12
Western Australia hasn’t held jumps races since 1941, while the ACT and Queensland have only held occasional events.
Community support is waning
A 2009 RSPCA survey into community views on jumps racing and the racing industry found only 14% of respondents supported jumps racing.
Attendance at jumps meetings, like the Oakbank Easter Racing Carnival, has fallen significantly in recent years and the relevance of jumps racing to those attending has been questioned. The Advertiser surveyed about 500 racegoers at Oakbank in 2015 with 80% of respondents saying that they would still attend the Easter Carnival if jumps races were withdrawn.13
In addition, SA Racing Minister Leon Bignell expressed his disappointment that jumps racing will continue at Morphettville and that the sport should be phased out.14
Industry support is waning
In August 2014, SA Jockey Club (SAJC) Chief Executive, Brenton Wilkinson called upon Thoroughbred Racing SA to support their bid to cease jumps racing at Morphettville, the main metropolitan track, stating that jumps racing is financially damaging to the club.15
Unfortunately, Thoroughbred Racing SA has not supported the SAJC to cease jumps at Morphettville but have reduced the number of races from nine to six16. However, the total number of jumps races in SA for the year remains the same as regional tracks have increased their quota. RSPCA is extremely disappointed at this decision17.
It is interesting to note that only 20 of the 22 scheduled races for the 2015 season ran with the first race at Murray Bridge cancelled due to only one horse being nominated. In addition, the number of horses competing at regional races averaged less than 6 starters, demonstrating a lack of local interest or capacity to attain 50% of the ‘field’ quota.18
With Morphettville wanting to cease jumps, few competitors at regional tracks and the Oakbank Racing Club experiencing ongoing operating deficits for the last few years, the future viability of jumps racing in SA is uncertain.
Risk to jockeys
The serious fall of experienced SA jockey Amy Hermann during a jumps trial at Morphettville in June highlights the enormous and unnecessary risks that jumps jockeys face. 19
Several studies have shown that jumps racing jockeys are at higher risk of serious injury compared to flats jockeys. A comparison of insurance claims for jockey injuries relating to jumps versus flat racing in Victoria and South Australia from 2002 to 2010 showed that the costs of 128 claims by jumps jockeys was significantly higher than the 2659 claims by flats jockeys of $45,000 and $24,000 respectively. In addition, jumps jockeys were 41% more likely to suffer fractures than a flats jockey.20
Another study showed that jumps jockeys are 12.5 times more likely to fall than a flats jockey and that they can expect to fall every 19 rides with 9.7% of these falls resulting in injury.21
RSPCA South Australia is openly opposed to jumps racing. We want to see the ‘sport’ disappear from race tracks.
The risk of a horse suffering serious injury or death as a result of participating in these events makes jumps racing unacceptable.
1. Boden et al (2006) ‘Risk of fatality and cause of death of Thoroughbred horses associated with racing in Victoria, Australia:1989-2004. Equine Veterinary Journal 38(4) pp312-318.’
2. “Distillation withdrawn from Oakbank jumps after Black Moon death” – The Advertiser, published April 14, 2014
3. Bailey et al (1998): Flat, hurdle and steeple racing: risk factors for musculoskeletal injury', Equine Vet Journal, November 1998, vol 30, issue 6.
6. Ibid 3 (see reference 3)
7. Review of Jumps Racing in Victoria, Report by His Honour David Jones, November 2008. Commissioned by Racing Victoria Limited.
8. Bourke et al. (1994) Fatalities on racecourses in Victoria. A seven year study. In: Proceedings of the 10th International Conference of Racing Analysts and Veterinarians.
9. Jumps Review Report 2008 pp17-29
10. "Victoria bans jumps racing" - ABC, published 27 Nov 2009
11. "RSPCA ire over jumps ban U-turn" - The Age, published January 22, 2010
12. "Tasmania calls end to jumps races" - The Age, published April 28, 2007
13. “Oakbank Easter Racing Carnival: 80 per cent of racegoers would still attend Hills event if jumps racing was dumped” – The Daily Telegraph published April 6, 2015
14 “Jumps racing to continue at Morphettville” – The Australian, published Feb 17, 2015
15. “SA Jockey Club call to end jumps at Morphettville” – ABC, published 15 Aug 2014
16 “Jumps racing to continue at Morphettville” – ABC, published 17 Feb 2015
17. “Jumps racing at Morphettville” – RSPCA media release 17 Feb 2015 INSERT pdf
19. “Adelaide jockey Amy Herrmann taken to hospital after Morphettville fall” – Adelaide Now, published June 21, 2015
20 Curry et al (2105) Workplace injuries in Thoroughbred Racing : An analysis of Insurance Payment and Injuries amonst Jockeys in Australia from 2002 to 2010. Animals 2015, 5, pp897-909
21 Hitchens et al (2011) Predictors of race-day jockey falls in jumps racing in Australia. Accident Analysis and Prevention 2011 43, pp840-847