Don't forget the jockey
The interaction between horse and jockey in racing is a fundamental partnership that can be optimized to achieve peak performance.
Performance benefits have been demonstrated for major changes in jockey technique such as the change from seated to the modern martini glass posture. However, if the partnership between horse and jockey does not work effectively together in a synchronized and complementary manner then, irrespective of the ability of the horse, performance may be constrained and the risk of injury of both horse and jockey may be increased.
Jockey training techniques have developed rapidly in recent years to involve sport-specific fitness training and technique optimisation, often using mechanical racehorse simulators. Simulators allow carefully controlled, safe, and cost-effective training environments that can be used for prolonged periods to improve fitness, train neural pathways, and develop muscle memory. Simulator training allows the jockey and coach to focus on specific elements of technique with immediate and detailed feedback, which in some cases can include physical manipulation to improve position and help jockeys to ‘feel’ the correct posture. Furthermore, additional skills such as correct use of the whip can be practiced in a safe, repeatable, welfare friendly environment.
Our research set out to characterize optimum jockey technique, measure the similarities and differences between simulators and real horses, and to measure changes in ability between jockeys of different experience levels. Using wireless sensor technology we have identified targets for skill optimisation with the potential to form the basis for improved feedback to jockeys during training.