A JOCKEY’S PLEA
Former president of the Jamaica Jockeys’ Guild Robert “Hardball” Halledeen supports the Jamaica Racing Commission (JRC) in its drive to establish a broad-based programme looking at the general welfare of horses.
Halledeen is urging the governing body of horse racing in Jamaica to specifically focus on minimising injuries and to institute a plan that guarantees the broad protection of the animals.
The JRC is currently reviewing the current rule on excessive use of the whip and is also close to adding a new rule of racing that will limit the number of times a jockey can whip a horse in any one race.
Rule 138 (5) deals with excessive use of the whip but does not include the number of times a jockey can use the whip in a race. This rule change will bring local racing in line with what is considered international standards specifically aimed at protecting the horses.
While Halledeen supports the measure, he claims that there is more cruelty to horses in the sector and has criticised the commission for a lack of certain care for the horses. Halledeen also proposes putting measures in place to ensure their well-being.
“I have seen horses abused every day here at Caymanas Park, and sometimes I ask who is responsible for the welfare of these horses,” Halledeen said.
“When a horse pulls up out of a race, that horse is either lame, sore, or feeling some kind of pain. So the horse pulls up at the eighth furlong. The jockey jumps off and decides to drag the horse in so that the horse has to walk straight to the stable on that lame foot.
“The vet on duty just comes off the truck and writes ‘lame horse’ in the book. The vet doesn’t give that horse a painkiller or something for the pain. That horse has to walk to the stables. You have a truck that takes up the dead horses, and that same truck can carry the lame horses to the stables.
“So you guys are looking out for the welfare of these horses by the number of hits [whipping] they get; what about when the horses break down?” Halledeen reasoned.
The jockey also underlined the importance of better communication during races and the need for jockeys to file an objection before the three-minute window closes.
“We have three minutes following the race to file an objection before the race is declared over. But what if the horse breaks down and you have to drag it in? You’re saying the jockey can’t file an objection?
“You guys [stewards] need to provide the outriders with some kind of communication channel so that a jockey can pull up and lodge his objection through the outrider. Someone in the winners’ enclosure can also take an objection. There’s nothing in place if a horse collides with a jockey and that jockey wants to file an objection,” Halledeen explained.
According to Eustace Williams, an internationally accredited steward, the racetrack stewards and veterinarians are in charge of animal welfare, but argues he appreciates the need for improved support for wounded horses.
“We do take note that when an animal returns, the vets examine the horses, look out for cuts and bruises after a race, and report to the stewards. Dr Sophia Ramlal and her team are working on something that will help protect the horses.
“Based on the system that exists, they want to apply some pressure to it to ensure that these horses don’t come back and run before they are fully healed. So that is coming,” Williams told the Jamaica Observer.
Williams also stated that they will compare communication channels and support available in the United States to that available in Jamaica. Williams also stated that the stewards will work with Supreme Ventures Racing and Entertainment Limited to find solutions.
“There’s a communication channel in the United States where somebody’s on a horseback, and he listens to what the jockeys are saying and reports to the stewards. The stewards can then consult the person with the ambulance and say, ‘Go there and pick up such and such a horse’. It’s not that easy in Jamaica.
“The ambulance in Jamaica, what it does: a horse has broken a leg, and the ambulance will go and pick up that horse. A horse has died; the ambulance will go and pick up that horse. Halledeen is asking for a lame horse for the ambulance to go and pick up that horse as well. That is possible.
“We just need to work with the promoter to get them active and say that this is what must be done. In other words, the visual is that a lame horse has been assisted in the lameness, so it doesn’t have to walk half a mile or three-quarters of a mile to its stable,” Williams affirmed.