The question that needs to be answered is why are there so many serious back and head injuries now that result in more deaths. The answer is VESTS.

Vests have been the biggest cover-up in Australian racing. Everybody knows what I believe about the vest. Before they were brought in, I was in the stewards room at Rosehill racecourse explaining what would happen if we were made to wear them.

Ray Murrihy and a doctor were watching and listening.

I said the vests were too hard on your back and that would result in more broken vertebrae.

Also, the vest comes up and hits your head, resulting in more head injuries, and it prevents a jockey from rolling, the most important reaction in a fall. Rolling saves jockeys lives.

They basically laughed at me then. No-one is laughing now.

Why were we made to wear the Australian vest, which was the worst in the world? The Japanese made the best vest but we weren’t allowed to wear that.

I’ve kept following up with officials in Sydney for the past 15 years and all the response I get is: “Shane, you’re wrong”.

They told me someone at Adelaide University did tests and watched video replays and didn’t agree with me.

My response was “So what you are saying is someone who has ridden horses every day for over 40 years and who has been through many falls, over 20 raceday falls – and should be dead from one of them – and who has broken multiple vertebrae riding has no idea?”

Most jockeys agree with me and many officials silently agree that the vest is the problem.

But the real problem is a few officials in Sydney who have too much power and too little knowledge. You must be kidding yourselves.

I have fallen with a vest and I have fallen without a vest and I believe that falling with a vest on does so much more damage.

All these types of back and head injuries have got worse since 1998, when the vest was made compulsory to wear in races.

Now you want jockeys to wear bigger skullcaps, which common sense tells you cannot be right and which will cause more damage.

The skullcap needs to be smaller, not larger.

The larger skullcap creates more distance and so a wider angle between the ground and the jockey’s neck, and therefore a stronger whiplash effect exerting more force in pushing the jockey’s neck the wrong way.

It is simple physics any school child learns when they learn about levers.

Whatever studies have been done seem to have looked only at the effect of force on the helmet, and what is inside the helmet, independent of the effects on the parts of the body joined to what is inside the helmet. What is the good of a helmet which protects the head itself but helps to snap your neck?

I applaud you Mr McGauran for your good intentions, for trying make racing safer for jockeys, but you have got it wrong and you have no right to tell us what to wear when it isn’t safe.

Jockeys are the ones that will die, not you.

Australian racing got away with bringing the vest in as compulsory but jockeys around Australia will not, nor should they, put up with these new helmets.

If a jockey gets seriously hurt or dies because he or she is wearing the new helmet, how will you sleep at night? And how much will it cost you when the jockey or the jockey’s family sues? I wish everybody would go to racingnsw.com.au and get the replay of the Mudgee Cup on 4th December, Race 7.

Please watch the outside jockey in yellow colours.

When he falls, his back stays straight because of the vest. He can’t bend and roll. It’s not normal to wear a vest and this is a great example.

It’s just a shame that people who have never had a race fall, who don’t understand, are making the decisions about riders’ lives.

You jockeys and trackwork riders as a group have to be firm and stand together on this. This isn’t just about you, it’s about your kids and grandkids.

I’m sure trainers, many of who are ex-jockeys and ride trackwork every day, will support you, as will owners.

This isn’t about money, it’s about being able to wake up the next day breathing after another day of trackwork or races.

I have nothing to gain by this personally, as I will never ride again, but I really do worry and want the best safety measures in place for my fellow riders.

Yours sincerely,

Shane Dye

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  1. Mark says:

    Well put Shane.

  2. Annette Oliver says:

    My husband and I who both ride our own track work have referred to the vests as ‘death vests’ ever since they were brought in. A simple tumble at average speed that used to mean you brushed yourself off and were fine became a ‘thud’ with the uncompromising vest that then bruised your back if that is the way you landed. They hit you in the back of the neck especially if you are riding in a big saddle – we took pieces out of ours to stop this happening – but that made them ‘illegal’ to wear. We are now on our own property and do not wear the vests by choice but are forced to if we ride on a registered track. Have not yet seen the new helmets but the people pushing them have no doubt never tried to ride 4 to 12 work in a morning – especially in heat – where they combined with the vests are definitely likely to be a health hazard.

  3. peter says:

    Against this compelling background statement, the issue of the vest certainly needs to be further reviewed, investigated and researched. Safety has to be the cornerstone in all racing practices.

  4. Judi Rose says:

    I really respect the fact that you have persevered with this issue – the statistics tell their own story. Yes, regulations appear to be made by people not suffering the injuries caused by so called ‘safety’ apparatus. This issue needs to be researched further by medical experts. Thank you so much for the care shown toward protecting your fellow jockeys and track-work riders – absolutely admiral. Please keep up your fantastic contribution and raising awareness of this important issue.

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