Delaware jockeys help expand nutrition education program for riders

June 21, 2012 under Cooperative Extension

Delaware jockeys are continuing their support of a nutrition program to help improve jockey health and safety on the state’s racetracks with a donation Wednesday.

The Delaware Jockeys Health and Welfare Fund presented $1,000 to the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension to continue an initiative begun in 2009 to improve jockey nutrition.

With jockeys facing strict weight limits to participate in races and not impede their horses, many riders can develop eating disorders or practice other unhealthy behaviors to get their weight down before races. Such practices can hinder their riding abilities and safety on the horse, said John F. Wayne, executive director of the Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission.

“This program helps educate jockeys about the risks to their health and the health of their horses,” Wayne said. “Healthy riders are safer riders, and we all want races to be safe.”

The donation made Wednesday will provide new jockeys with information to make healthy choices in their daily diets. The nutrition education effort was launched in 2009 with a study by the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension and a collaboration with the Delaware Jockey Health and Welfare Benefit Board and the Delaware Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association. An advisory committee of current and former jockeys was appointed to help meet riders’ needs.

“I am not aware of any other nutrition education program in the U.S. for jockeys,” said Dr. Sue Snider, a professor and food safety and nutrition specialist with the University of Delaware. “During the program offered by UD Cooperative Extension, jockeys are encouraged to eat small amounts of food throughout the day, especially in the morning.  Based on our original survey, the average jockey consumes around 1,000 calories a day.  The program focuses on getting the most nutrients for the fewest calories.”

Dr. Michelle Rodgers, associate dean and director of UD Cooperative Extension, said: “Helping individuals apply nutrition concepts to meet their diet and health needs has been a long standing component of Extension programming. However, this is a new audience with some specific needs for us to work with.”

The Delaware Jockeys Health and Welfare Benefit Board oversees management of a $350,000 fund each year, offsetting health and welfare costs for participating riders. Half of the money comes from track video lottery funds and half from the Horsemen’s Purse Account. Delaware Park also has a $1 million on-track injury policy in force, covering riders injured during racing, and has the option to accept an additional $1 million on-track policy for $4 per mount, with the other portion of the premium covered by the Jockeys Health and Welfare Fund.

Article courtesy of the Delaware Department of Agriculture

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