Here’s the total distance Ruby Walsh has fallen from horses in the course of his career

It's tough at the top, it's tougher on the floor

Ruby Walsh falling from Valseur Lido

Here's all the major injuries Ruby has had to endure in the course of his career

And if all those falls were added together, it would make for a tidy little skydive

Jockeys are a different breed aren’t they?

While us mere mortals run for the Panadol Max when we stub a toe, the jockeys of the world cheerfully take being flung from a saddle on board a nearly half a tonne animal as a hazard of the job. For the most part, they emerge largely unscatched. Bumps, bruises and disappointment are the most common ailments but they are generally shrugged off as another chance for glory is never too far away.

More serious injuries do happen. Bone breaks, ruptured whatdyamacallits, fractured anythings – most jockeys have accrued a list of injuries that it would take hundreds of the most clumsy members of the public to match. But it’s all part of the job.

It got the Paddy Power Blog thinking about the falls Ruby has had since starting his career on the racetrack. How far has he fallen from the saddle in the course of his career?

After looking into some facts and consulting the man himself, we’re basing our sums on:

  • 10,872 rides in Ruby’s career – the total of UK, Ireland, France and a handful of trips to Asia
  • Circa 40 falls on the gallops and schooling sessions from around 20 years of riding out
    (based on an estimate of about two per season)
  • A fall rate of one in 12 for jockeys (based on Ruby’s own calculations)
  • The height from horse’s back to the ground being around five foot five inches (1.65m)

And that yielded a surprisingly terrifying number.

Ruby Walsh falls

Doing the maths on that, we estimate that Ruby has fallen approximately 946 times. With the saddle being an average of five foot five inches off the ground when he falls, the cumulative height he has fallen over the years is 5,124 feet.

Despite the relatively short fall individually, that’s a huge distance when you put them all together. To give you an idea of how far that is, it’s:

  • substantially more than Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK at 4,409 feet
  • nearly twice as high as the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world (2,722 ft)
  • over three times more than the height of iconic tourist hotspot, the Empire State Building (1,451 ft)
  • Five times the height of London’s Shard (1,004ft)
  • over 13 times the size of the Dublin syringe Spire (397.6 ft)

And it’s led to some pretty substantial injuries for the Cheltenham Festival’s most successful jockey.

It’s a vivid illustration of the risks jockeys face on a daily basis. It’s also particularly relevant in view of the high profile falls Ruby has endured aboard horses that looked set to claim victory. Ruby rejects criticism of his approach.

“I’d rather not fall, but I’m not doing much wrong. It’s a bit unusual that a lot of them have come in a relatively short space of time, but overall I’d say it’s no different to any of the other top jockeys. For some reason, these things can be cyclical in racing. You sometimes go through spells when you fall more often than the average, when you win more than the average and even spells where you’re finishing second a lot, as happened with me at Naas on Sunday.”

In fact, the apparent spike in last obstacle falls may have more to do with the fact Ruby is involved in the business end of races and therefore is more noticeable and more likely to suffer to late tumbles.

“We fall roughly once in every 12 rides and that’s fairly constant whoever the jockey is. I’ve certainly found it to be applicable to me in the long run. I do get a lot more attention than others because whether it’s in Ireland or the UK, I’m almost always riding favourites or well-backed horses who are in contention at the last.”

The Cheltenham Festival starts next Tuesday (March 15) and Ruby is looking to become Top Jockey for the 10th time in his career. With an enviable book of rides, he’s the clear favourite, his hopes will depend heavily on not getting much higher than Ben Nevis in the coming week.

What do you think?