Racing towards wellbeing: innovative app hopes to transform jockey support

11 January 2024 Written by Celia Purdey

In a move to prioritise the wellbeing and health of jockeys, the Victorian Jockeys’ Association has announced the creation of an online platform set to become a vital resource for jockeys in the demanding world of horse racing. Jointly funded by the Victorian Government’s Victorian Racing Industry Fund and Racing Victoria, the app ushers in a new era of comprehensive support for jockeys.

As CEO of the Victorian Jockeys’ Association (VJA), Matt Hyland is often the first port of call for jockeys and their families when they have an issue or question, so he has no trouble identifying the unique challenges faced by the riders. He understands intimately the pressures and demands of a jockey’s lifestyle. “Jockeys are extremely busy individuals and are constantly on the move. As they are effectively self-employed, they often have limited time for self-care in all areas, from mental and physical health, to financial support and even planning for life after riding.”

The new app is designed to cater to these demanding lifestyles. Developed in collaboration with Australian-based company Readiness and the Swinburne Centre for Mental Health, it is poised to provide an unprecedented level of support for jockeys' mental and physical wellbeing.

The Jockey Wellbeing app will serve as a proactive tool, prompting jockeys to conduct self-assessments and engage in personalised activities geared towards fostering mental health. A survey is sent automatically every Tuesday morning covering a different topic such as mood, sleep, mind, energy, body, and job satisfaction, among others. When jockeys complete the survey (confidentially), the app will seamlessly connect them to critical resources such as the Jockey Assistance Program, Stable Line, and other third-party support options like Financial Counselling Australia. This holistic approach aims to address the multifaceted challenges that jockeys face in their high-risk profession.

Elite athlete exercise scientist Simon Kearney, the mastermind behind Readiness, envisioned this platform based on over two decades of experience in elite sports. Kearney, alongside businessman Gerry Ryan OAM and technology strategist Paul Francis, brought Readiness to life, seeking to make a lasting impact on workplace mental health.

What sets this platform apart is its customisation capabilities, allowing tailored content from the VJA to be integrated. Moreover, it facilitates social connections among jockeys, providing a space for mutual support, mentoring, and guidance.

The data collected not only provides insights into the wellbeing of jockeys and steers them towards the right resources, but also guides the VJA on where to focus additional support. The information can also be shared with Racing Victoria to enhance industry-wide care.

Hyland recognises the potential of the platform to empower jockeys to self-monitor their wellbeing. “It is not designed to replace face-to-face interaction, such as meeting with a psychologist, but it will hopefully help them to take ownership of some of their problems and direct them to the right place for help. It’s also a useful tool for a jockey’s wider circle, such as their partner or families, as a jockey’s lifestyle doesn’t only affect the rider.”

Officially launching in February 2024, the app promises to usher in a new era of comprehensive support for jockeys, demonstrating the industry’s commitment to the wellbeing of those who dedicate their lives to the high-stakes world of horse racing.