BHA statement regarding saunas

16 Aug 2023 BHA Features

Every decision concerning racecourse saunas and rider weight allowances has been based on expert medical evidence and following extensive engagement with and full support from the PJA.

This includes the decision to close saunas permanently following the Covid pandemic. In making these decisions the BHA and others are reliant on representative bodies to accurately and consistently reflect the views of their members.

For the past year, the BHA with the PJA and others has been working intensively and at pace – taking an evidence-based approach – to develop short and long-term proposals to support jockeys in managing their weights. At no point in that process were saunas put forward as a credible proposal.

In calling for the reinstatement of saunas, the PJA has not only reversed its public position but also undermined a huge body of work undertaken in a spirit of genuine goodwill.

It is simply false to present the return of saunas as a quick and easy fix for jockeys’ weight management, not least because that ignores the obvious significant practical and economic challenges posed by such a demand.

But more importantly, it ignores all of the medical advice which was considered by the BHA, and PJA, ahead of the decision to remove saunas. That expert advice was clear that acute dehydration immediately prior to competition could reach levels where it represents a safety risk to horses and jockeys. That expert advice was also significantly more extensive than the one study mentioned in the PJA statement.

All parties agreed that following the removal of saunas jockeys should be supported with more permanent arrangements to assist with weight management. This resulted in all published weights being raised by 2lbs and the ‘safety allowance’ increasing by 1lb to 4lbs. These changes replaced the 3lbs “Covid allowance” which had been granted to jockeys during Covid and meant that the actual weights carried by horses has remained unchanged.

This change meant that jockeys could raise their own riding weight by 2lbs, while also receiving the 4lbs safety allowance – meaning that they could ride at the same weight as during Covid.

We are committed to the safety, welfare and mental wellbeing of racing’s participants and are fully aware of the concerns that have been raised by jockeys. That is why we have spent significant time in the past year working the PJA, IJF and others to find sustainable short and long-term solutions to this issue.

These discussions centred on further adjustments to the weight allowances for a time-limited period, to support rider wellbeing while a safer and sustainable approach can be agreed. Until very recently all parties were committed to this process and the return of saunas was not presented as a credible part of that approach.

We remain committed to working with the PJA and others to discuss any reasonable compromises. With goodwill on all sides we are optimistic we can agree practical short and longer-term measures in the best interests of jockey’s physical and mental wellbeing can be found.