Safety First for Jockeys and Exercise Riders at Keeneland


At Keeneland, the welfare of horse and rider is priority No. 1. The track works in partnership with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) and the Jockeys’ Guild to provide the safest environment possible for jockeys and exercise riders.

Mandatory safety helmets and safety vests: Anyone mounted on a horse or stable pony at Keeneland must at all times wear a properly secured safety helmet and safety vest approved by the KHRC.

On-site emergency medical services: Mediport provides on-site ambulance emergency medical services during all training and racing hours. This includes the necessary staff and equipment to perform advanced life support in accordance with the Medical Care Recommendations of the Jockeys’ Guild and the NTRA Safety & Integrity Alliance Medical Care Committee.

State-of-the-art first aid facility: Keeneland maintains a state-of-the-art first aid facility under the director of track Medical Director Dr. Barry Schumer on race days for horsemen, patrons and employees. The facility is equipped to treat anything from a headache to a life-threatening emergency medical condition.

If a jockey is injured, he or she is immediately taken to the first aid facility for observation. If needed, the rider is transported to the UK Chandler Hospital (at the University of Kentucky in Lexington) for further evaluation.

Keeneland will release a statement from the Medical Director about the jockey’s initial condition after the incident.

Jockey Health Information System: In 2008, Keeneland, in association with the Jockeys’ Guild, The Jockey Club and Lexington physician and Keeneland Medical Director Dr. Barry Schumer, created and launched the Jockey Health Information System. This technology enables emergency personnel at race tracks throughout North America to immediately access a jockey’s updated medical history in the event of an injury. There are no fees for a track or a jockey to participate.

Jockey Concussion Protocol: Beginning with the 2017 Fall Meet, Keeneland initiated a jockey concussion protocol under which jockeys are required to complete a baseline concussion assessment prior to being allowed to ride. Keeneland is among the first race tracks in the U.S. to establish concussion management and return to participation protocol. The protocol is part of a pilot project between the Jockeys’ Guild and the University of Kentucky, funded by a number of Thoroughbred industry organizations. Initially conceived by Keeneland Medical Director Dr. Barry Schumer, the protocol was developed over several years, and guidelines were assessed and approved by the Jockeys’ Guild Board of Directors.

Jockey Injury Database: This program collects information on jockey injuries at race tracks, including where, when and how injuries occurred; what type of equipment riders were wearing at the time; and the nature and severity of the injuries. During the 2016 Spring Meet, Keeneland became the first track to collect the data.

Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF): Keeneland supports the PDJF, a 501(c)(3) public charity that provides financial assistance to 60 former jockeys who have suffered catastrophic on-track injuries. Since its founding in 2006, the fund has disbursed nearly $9 million to permanently disabled jockeys, most of whom have sustained paralysis or brain injuries.

Safety padding on starting gate: Keeneland’s starting gate and training gate are lined with a thick rubber material produced by Equine Environmental Consulting Inc. (formerly Best Pad Safety Solutions). The padding protects the horse and reduces the impact if a jockey’s leg is caught between the horse and the metal structure.

Race cancellation policy: In the event of situation that might pose a danger to human or equine athletes, employees or patrons and would warrant the cancellation of races, officials from Keeneland, the KHRC and the Jockeys’ Guild would collaborate to make an informed decision. Situations include unsafe or hazardous weather conditions; unsafe or hazardous track conditions; serious or catastrophic injury to a human or equine athlete; and a national, regional or local emergency that would warrant evacuation. Keeneland uses advanced lightning detection to further inform decisions about race cancellation.