Statistics reveal that jump jockeys on average fall every 16th ride and one in ten falls they endure result in an injury.
While there is no such thing as a “safe fall” — when you’re travelling at 30-40mph over fences onboard an unpredictable animal — a technique can be learnt which will limit the risk of injury. It is possible to learn to fall in a way that limits the impact on vulnerable areas, such as the head, neck and wrists — instinctually riders put their arms out to break the fall.
The British Racing School in Newmarket has a pivotal role in educating both professional and conditional jockeys, plus point-to-point riders, about the best way to fall at the point of no return.
Former jump jockey and coach Steve Smith-Eccles heads fall sessions at the racing school. “Although anything can happen when you fall, and it usually happens quickly, it is good to have this seed planted in your heads,” he says.
He begins his sessions in the gym (video, below), getting riders doing forward rolls and then over an exercise ball — practising bringing the arm around and not putting them straight out in front of the body. Creating a twist in the body and tucking the head in, so in turn landing on the shoulder blade.
Once Steve is happy everyone has mastered the technique in the gym, the jockeys can have a go on the Equichute. The mechanical horse (video below) launches riders off onto soft mats, repeatedly, allowing them to analyse and improve the way they fall.
- Bend through the body and bring one arm around, across the body — avoid putting both arms out in front of you, this could result in broken wrists.
- Keep the head tucked in to one side and chin down towards the chest.
- Aim to take the impact on the back of the shoulder.
- Try and absorb the roll so the impact is taken across the shoulder and not on the neck. It should almost look like a skewed forward roll.