One of the primary topics of interest discussed at the Jockey Guild Assembly is always safety, which seems to becoming the norm across all player-based union meetings in sports. This is a time for jockeys to focus on what’s important to them, so when they met on December 12th and had a chance to look in to improved equipment, it was an opportunity for jockeys to become part of the process.
Terry Smith runs the Dynamic Research firm which conceived the American Society for Testing and Materials (ATSM). The hope was to bring riders together at the Jockey Guild Assembly to talk about safety vests and Smith cane away very excited about the future of protecting the human element on the track.
“Standards are always evolving, and it’s a great resource to have a room full of riders who can provide their experiences,” Smith said. “We want these vests to provide maximum safety, but they also have to allow you to do your job.”
Smith also echoed an important mantra from his end. “Users develop their own standards,” which is a grassroots approach that definitely resonated at the Jockey Guild Assembly this week.
Dynamic Research is working in concert with Phoenix Performance, a vest manufacturer operated by David Andersen who wants to use built in sensors to collect useful data that will lead to further improvements in rider safety.
“Speaking as a manufacturer, it’s just as important for me as it is for a medical professional to receive information about where injuries are occurring,” Anderson said. “It’s unfortunate that we don’t have the funding, but we have to do this somehow. I need to know where you guys are getting hurt.”
The concern for funding is a big one but even then the type of research that contributors like Smith and Andersen want to implement generated optimism at the Jockey Guild Assembly. “Knowing these vests have all that testing behind them, gives you peace of mind,” said Johnny Bravo who also noted the need for approved safety gear for insurance purposes.
However there’s also a fine line between safety and performance because, as we all know, Throughbred racing is a results driven business. Improvements in standards combined with an ability to build a comprehensive, adaptable and responsive data set that can lead to even better equipment was the buzz at the Jockey Guild Assembly and for very good reason.
Hopefully Phoenix Performance, Dynamic Research, along with others, will receive the support they need to advance their cause. They definitely already have the backing of jockeys.