After becoming a professional jockey in his native Ireland, Robert “Robbie” Walsh cast his fortunes in America and has had an outstanding career as a steeplechase jockey. Over an American career that began in 2002, he has ridden nearly 100 winners over fences, and he ranks among the top 20 jockeys all-time by purse earnings.
When a jockey parts company with a mount, no longer is it a matter of the rider getting up and preparing for the next race.
A fall or lost rider in a sanctioned National Steeplechase Association race triggers an immediate evaluation by a trained physician, who looks at not only potential physical injury that might keep the rider from performing properly but also administers a cognitive test to protect against concussion.
The concussion testing and detailed medical emergency procedures are only two of the many protections mandated by the NSA Board of Directors, which regards the safety of horse and rider as its top priority.
The NSA board’s work is guided by the Steeplechase Safety Committee, instituted by the NSA board in 2012 and headed since its founding by R. Reynolds Cowles, D.V.M., the immediate past president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners. Through many initiatives, the committee looks at all aspects of the sport and recommends improvements to the Board of Directors.
The NSA has been a leader in Thoroughbred racing and all sports in protecting its participants—the jockeys in this case—from the short-term and long-term effects of concussions. With financial assistance from the National Steeplechase Foundation, the NSA launched baseline cognitive testing of its jockeys beginning in 2013.
The NSA effort drew from the experience of the British racing industry and has been a model for flat tracks and other racing organizations. Subsequent to the NSA’s initiative, other professional sports organizations have begun concussion-testing procedures as concerns over the long-term effects of head injuries have grown.
The concussion-prevention process begins with baseline testing of the jockeys. For the convenience of the riders, four locations were established for administering the tests: the National Steeplechase Museum in Camden, S.C.; the Iroquois Steeplechase in Nashville, Tenn.; the Virginia Gold Cup in The Plains; and the NSA headquarters in Fair Hill, Md.
While the baseline test is crucial for evaluating the effects of concussion, the sport lacked an adequate sideline test to be used immediately after a fall or lost rider. Again drawing on the experience of British racing, the NSA included three brief cognitive questions in its post-fall assessment form.
Any abnormal answers or other suspicion of a concussion on the part of the examining physician then triggers an immediate and more comprehensive concussion screening, which includes memory, balance, and vestibular function.
Bethany Baumgardner, an amateur steeplechase jockey and member of the Amateur Riders Club of America (ARCA), has written a letter of appreciation to the many supporters who made possible her participation in the races sponsored by Fegentri, the international organization of amateur riders. Baumgardner won the final race of the female series on Dec. 3
by Donald Yovanovich
The Amateur Riders Club of America made history on Sunday when Bethany Baumgardner became the first American lady rider ever to win the Champ de Mars, the finale of the Longines Fegentri Ladies Championship in Mauritius.
In an invitational race limited to the top eight riders in the season-long competition, Bethany rode Social Network to a gate-to-wire victory in the 1,500-meter turf race.
Bethany has competed in about 60% of the offered races in the series and during most of the summer was ranked second. With a short hiatus in September and October, she fell to sixth in the standings, but a third-place finish aboard Bonnie Acclamation at Pisa on Nov. 26 moved her into the fifth spot.
Her victory in Mauritius placed her fourth in the world, with only 17 points separating the second-, third-, and fourth-place ladies. The series leader, Sara Vemeersch representing Belgium, ran away with the competition, winning by a huge margin. Bethany had two wins and seven seconds during the series, and she was thrilled by the finale victory. “It was an incredible experience,” she said.
We should also mention that the ARCA Fegentri World Cup Team finished the year by placing second to Norway. Special thanks to the riders, Erika Taylor, Amelia McGuirk, Brittany Trimble, Teresa Croce, and Mark Galligan. All the riders, including Bethany, are National Steeplechase Association-licensed jockeys.
Amateur steeplechase jockey Bethany Baumgardner keeps finishing second in international Fegentri amateur rider races, and those six place finishes have moved her into a tie for third in the Longines Fegentri Ladies’ Rankings for 2017. When the Amateur Riders Club of America hosted four races on the East Coast in June, Baumgarder had three second-place
Riders belonging to the Amateur Riders Club of America had a successful afternoon at the Grand National in Butler, Md., on Saturday, April 22. In the kickoff race, Eric Poretz rode Irvin “Skip” Crawford’s Senior Senator to victory in the $30,000 Grand National and will have the mount as Senior Senator seeks a repeat win