Jockeys’ Guild, HISA Bring Industry Leaders Together For Host First-Ever Jockey Mental Wellness Symposium - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Jockeys’ Guild, HISA Bring Industry Leaders Together For Host First-Ever Jockey Mental Wellness Symposium

The Jockeys' Guild and the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) hosted a symposium at Keeneland today in order to bring the critical issue of jockey mental health to the forefront and generate discussion on how the Thoroughbred industry can work together to advance the mental wellness of jockeys across the country.

Jockeys' Guild President and CEO Terry Meyocks and HISA CEO Lisa Lazarus welcomed attendees and opened the symposium with remarks on the two organizations' shared goals of addressing the factors that adversely affect rider mental health and developing mechanisms for increased access to mental wellness resources.

The symposium's keynote address was delivered by former NFL player Randy Grimes, who in his retirement from football has traveled the country to advocate for substance abuse counseling and share his story of past addiction to prescription drugs. Grimes' personal story served as a powerful example of the need for appropriate and accessible mental wellness and addiction-related resources for professional athletes.

Retired jockey and author of “Riding for Freedom,” Eurico Rosa Da Silva also spoke on his lifelong struggles with mental wellness and his goal of helping others, particularly other jockeys, overcome similar difficulties off the track. Throughout his career as a highly decorated jockey, Da Silva struggled with various addictions before eventually finding help through therapy.

Following Grimes and Da Silva's moving remarks, FGS Global shared the results of an anonymous survey of jockeys recently conducted to evaluate jockeys' mental wellness needs and determine what kinds of resources and support services would be most impactful in strengthening their overall health and wellbeing. 230 jockeys across the country responded to the survey, which found:

  • 10% of jockeys describe their mental health as “poor”
  • A third have had challenges in their daily lives over the past month due to feelings of sadness, depression, or anxiety.
  • 93% are concerned about financial stability and providing for their families

The surveyed jockeys said that such worries about lack of financial security, making weight, the pressure to win and lack of a livable wage were among the biggest pressures they consistently face. The barriers to seeking help most often cited by jockeys included the fear of losing work and a general stigma around asking for support.

Potential resources that respondents expressed the most interest in to help address their challenges included nutritional support services to help safely maintain weight, access to a sports psychologist, career transition resources for retirement and personal finance assistance.

“The Jockeys' Guild appreciates all of the jockeys who took the time to complete the survey,” said Meyocks. “The number of responses just reiterates the importance of mental health and wellness for our athletes. We also appreciate all of the input and interest by industry participants in this first step in addressing jockeys' mental health. It is a very complex topic and it is necessary to have discussions like today on the best way to move forward. The ultimate goal is that we as an industry will be able to support and find solutions for, not only the jockeys, but everyone in our industry.”

“HISA's responsibility to oversee safety in racing certainly includes the mental wellbeing of its athletes,” said Lazarus. “The results of this survey serve as a reminder of the many challenges jockeys face. We are grateful to all the jockeys who shared their experiences and feedback, all of which will be crucial in our efforts to advance the wellbeing of current and future riders across the country.”

Following the discussion of the survey results, Horse Racing Radio Network (HRRN) host Mike Penna moderated a roundtable discussion that focused on exploring existing mental health programs developed by other professional sports and offering employment counseling for jockeys after their professional riding career has ended. The inclusion of family members and the Race Track Chaplaincy in future discussions was also identified as an important next step.

Following today, the Jockeys' Guild, HISA and other industry groups will use the survey results and learnings from the symposium to finalize and share a plan to develop and implement a network of resources to support rider mental wellness.

About The Jockeys' Guild

Jockeys' Guild, Inc. is the organization representing professional jockeys in Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing in the United States. It was founded in May 1940 and has approximately 1,050 members, including active, retired and disabled jockeys. The purpose is to protect jockeys, strive to achieve a safer racing environment, obtain improved insurance and other benefits for members and to monitor developments in local, state and federal laws affecting the racing industry, and in particular, the jockeys. For more information about the Guild, visit or

About the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority

When the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act was signed into federal law, it charged the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) with drafting and enforcing uniform safety and integrity rules in Thoroughbred racing in the U.S. Overseen by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), HISA is implementing, for the first time, a national, uniform set of rules applicable to every Thoroughbred racing participant and racetrack facility. HISA is comprised of two programs: the Racetrack Safety Program, which went into effect on July 1, 2022, and the Anti-Doping and Medication Control (ADMC) Program, which went into effect on May 22, 2023.

The Racetrack Safety Program includes operational safety rules and national racetrack accreditation standards that seek to enhance equine welfare and minimize equine and jockey injury. The Program expands veterinary oversight, imposes surface maintenance and testing requirements, enhances jockey safety, regulates riding crop use and implements voided claim rules, among other important measures.

The ADMC Program includes a centralized testing and results management process and applies uniform penalties for violations efficiently and consistently across the United States. These rules and enforcement mechanisms are administered by an independent agency, the Horseracing Integrity and Welfare Unit (HIWU), established by Drug Free Sport International (DFS). HIWU oversees testing, educates stakeholders on the Program, accredits laboratories, investigates potential ADMC violations and prosecutes any such violations.

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