Guild Pushes Safety Reins Issue in Kentucky

Jockeys' Guild officials asked the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority Monday to consider a proposal regarding the adoption of new safety reins for jockeys they said better withstand tension and frequent use and could prevent accidents.

"It's happened to most riders at some point, your rein breaks and you have no control," Guild national member representative Darrell Haire told the KHRA at its monthly meeting. "In my experience as a rider, it is one of the worst things that can happen. I compare it to driving a car and losing the steering wheel except you are on an animal going 30 miles per hour. To me, this is a no-brainer. (The new reins) will save a lot of people's lives."

The safety reins are reinforced by a wire and designed to hook on to the horse's bridle. According to Guild vice president Albert Fiss, reins currently being used have a breaking point of 300 pounds over nine minutes, while the safety reins have a 360-pound breaking point over the same time period.

Fiss said the safety reins are more durable under daily wear and tear and weigh about the same as reins currently used. Nylon safety reins are also available and are reinforced by a half-inch thick piece of nylon rather than wire.

Authority members agreed the quality of reins is a safety issue that should be addressed, but raised concerns over the expense and supply of these reins to riders if the proposal was immediately adopted. There are no current regulations on the books regarding reins and equipment, KHRA executive director Jim Gallagher said.

"A regulation would have to be phased in over a course of time because we would have to give people the opportunity to change their equipment and the horsemen will want to be heard on this issue as well," Gallagher said.

Fiss said the safety reins cost about $15 more and Sureline Inc., which designed and holds the patent on the reins, is willing to license the manufacturing of the product to meet the demand.

According to Fiss, the North American Pari-Mutuel Racing Association recently approved an identical safety reins proposal by the Guild, and he will ask the Association of Racing Commissioners International to adopt this proposal into its model rules at their annual convention this week in Lexington.

KHRA chairman Bill Street said the Authority will consider the Guild's proposal.

"I think it will take a lot of work, but I think it's a subject worthy to take on," Street said.