The Knights Guild held its annual meeting again almost this year on December 7, 2021. The virtual meeting was attended by Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse riders from all over the country.
Highlights included a synopsis of the short film the fall by Equine Productions visual director Nathan Horrocks, who co-directed the film with Cold Feet star Robert Bathurst. Horrocks has been racing for most of his life and has seen firsthand the mental health challenges that riders face on a daily basis. His hope is to raise awareness of the mental health struggles in racing and to let riders know that they don’t have to suffer in silence.
Race advocate and longtime supporter of Senator Damon Thayer (KY-R) addressed members about the compromise he was instrumental in achieving in Kentucky regarding ride-crop use, as well as an increase in lost ride fees on select tracks. His participation, as well as his continued support, is invaluable.
Dr. David Lambert BVSc. (Hons), MRCVS, President and Founder of Equine Analysis, in Midway, Kentucky, presented “Twenty-first Century Solutions: Preventing Horses From Breaking.” The system known as Stride Safe uses sensors placed in saddle towels to track a horse’s movements and gather data that can be used to protect horses, and therefore jockeys, from life-threatening injuries. The system is currently in use at the NYRA.
Anne McGovern, director of the Standing Committee on Racetrack Safety and Racing Safety (“HISA”), gave riders an update on the current status of proposed racetrack safety rules, which have been formally submitted to the Federal Trade Commission. She also advised members about the authority’s intent to provide regulations that would ensure the safety of horses, and thus improve the safety of jockeys. The riders have expressed concerns about the changes that have occurred with the races, as well as their continuing concern regarding safety issues resulting from the restricted use of the riding crop and the penalties proposed by HISA. The Jockeys’ Syndicate will provide public feedback to the FTC and encourage others to do so as well.
Nancy Lasala, President of the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (“PDJF”), PDJF Board Member and Owner/Breeder Paul Braverman gave an update on the fund. Mr. Braverman emphasized that the Committed Fund Fund (PDJF) will be for disabled riders for the rest of their lives, however there is no committed funding source from the industry. Like many other nonprofits, COVID-19 has had a negative impact on regular fundraising efforts and has been a stark reminder of the need for institutional funding. In response to requests from the horse owner, PDJF has created a new initiative called “Rider’s Up” which has the full support of the PDJF Board of Directors and has been presented to various industry stakeholders. The fund hopes that contributions resulting from the Rider’s Up initiative by horse owners will enable PDJF to increase their monthly stipends for beneficiaries who have suffered catastrophic injuries at the end of their careers.
In support of this worthwhile cause, the Senators of the Knights Guild voted to adopt a new policy in which jockeys winning purses of over $70,000 would contribute 0.005 percent of their earnings, up to a maximum of $200. This will be a separate program from the already existing “one dollar program” and will continue to be offered on tracks that do not offer portfolios of $70,000 or more. Like the Horse Owners Program, riders will have the ability to opt out. The Guild Senate formally adopted this proposal in support of the PDJF’s Riders Up Initiative with the goal of encouraging rider organizations to follow suit, so that the winning owner and winning rider can help make a critical impact on the well-being of these disabled riders. It should be noted that many active riders already contribute money and time to the PDJF, as well as donations to other injured riders.
The riders in attendance re-elected John Velazquez and Mike Smith as Co-Chairs, Javier Castellano and Julian Lebarro, along with newly elected Quarter Horse rider James Flores, as Vice-Chairs, Joel Campbell as Treasurer and Rodney Prescott as Treasurer. In addition, Alex Berser, Joe Bravo and Dryden Van Dyck were re-elected to the Board of Directors.
In a closed session, members reviewed the 2021 financial statements and the 2022 budget.
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