Something which affects jump racing in the main, and sometimes albeit rarely in the past, Flat racing too, is the issue of a horse throwing off its rider during the race.
We see it semi-regularly on the Flat these days at the start when young, sometimes flighty horses get themselves wound up and decide to dismount their unfortunate jockey.
Jump racing however, naturally still suffers from many an unseated rider mid-race.
The key question is; can a jockey remount having fallen off?
Why Do Jockeys Fall Off?
Horses can slip up or clip heels which can happen on the Flat as much as over the Jumps, often more so.
The main reason however for a jockey being unseated from their mount is the horse falling at a fence, or simply jumping or landing awkwardly.
Occasionally, a horse may get towards a fence and simply refuse to jump it. As a result of the near sudden stop, the jockey will be propelled over the top or “out the side door”.
If a jockey is lucky (and extremely strong and skillful) they may be able to hold on to the reigns and remain on board, allowing them to get back into the race.
In the past, jockeys were allowed to remount after a fall and in fact there were some famous cases of this. As of late 2009 however, decisions were taken to stop this practice.
The Rules Regarding Unseated Riders
On November 2, 2009, the BHA (British Horseracing Authority) introduced a new rule banning jockeys from getting back onto a horse after it had fallen during a race.
The basic answer to the main question here in that case, is ‘no’.
To be clear, the ban does not apply to those jockeys unseated from their horses on the way to the start or even at the post.
As long as both jockey and horse are fine and no injuries have resulted, the jockey may remount before the race starts.
The rule came into force specifically for those moments after a race officially starts in order to protect horse and jockey.
No risks should be taken when a fall for either may, after close inspection, have caused an injury.
What Happened Before the Rule Change?
Some punters we notice are a little miffed about the rules these days.
They feel let down by the system if their horse unseats the rider with neither appearing to be hurt, as in longer-distance jumps races it is more than possible for the jockey to have jumped back on and still won.
Before the 2009 rule change, jockeys needed clearance to race in future races on the same day of a fall. Permission was granted by a medical officer.
Despite this, they were allowed to remount their horse after falling off without any such checks taking place. That, it has to be said, seemed contradictory and potentially dangerous.
Pre-November 2009, jockeys could not only remount and race but also jump back on to take their horse back to the unsaddling enclosure when their race was done.
This is not the case anymore, as they must be walked back unless a vet gives permission otherwise.
What Caused the Rule Changes?
The governing bodies of horse racing in Britain have often been accused of being slow to act over the years. You could say that was certainly the case in bringing in this rule.
Two major incidents that have been pivotal in this rule change happened way back in 2002 and 2005.
The 2002 incident involved AP McCoy and his mount Family Business at Southwell. On January 23 of that year, McCoy’s mount lined up as the 8/11 favourite in a 7-runner race.
McCoy was unseated at the tenth fence of the novices’ chase and was offered a lift by course staff back to the weighing room. Realising that the other runners fell, refused or unseated one by one, McCoy belatedly decided to remount Family Business.
McCoy jumped the tenth again, meaning he was officially still in the race, and just sauntered the rest of the course to eventually complete the course in a time around four minutes longer than standard.
Many were unhappy at what happened, but the practice remained in place and indeed McCoy also remounted in the Grand National thereafter.
In 2005, star chaser Kauto Star was involved in a more serious incident which really should have led to this rule change being changed on the spot.
Kauto Star was taking part in a novices’ chase at Exeter. The 2/11 favourite in a 3-runner race, he was going easily and was well clear when falling two from home and getting rid of Ruby Walsh.
Walsh jumped back on board and went after the leader, only missing out by a short-head. As is the case with many in the sport, plenty of voices were praising Walsh for the effort but in fact it was discovered that Kauto Star had suffered a leg fracture in the incident which was made worse by carrying on.