YOU may not have seen it mentioned much this week, but a scientific diet plan designed to improve both the physical and mental well-being of jockeys was published and, believe me, this a great step forward for all in our profession.
It brings us into line with those in other sports, providing the knowledge and advice to maximise and prolong careers. Liverpool John Moores University, together with a specialist medical team, has implemented a plan to suit the needs of riders, whose fight against the scales can often lead to dangerous practices and harmful results.
It will not surprise you to learn that it was not unheard of for jockeys to starve themselves and spend hours in the sauna to lose a few pounds to make the weight on a big race ride. That cannot be right.
I must say, I have been very lucky during my time. I have found the right way to deal with my diet, largely through trial and error, but also by having good people around me all the time and they have given me the right advice for my body.
Dr Philip Pritchard, who is closely involved in this research, has always been a professional to whom I, and other jockeys, have turned. He knows what is best for jockeys and what is required to improve and progress.
I have found his mature approach to our problems very reassuring. It helps having somebody who has ridden himself and who knows what we are going through some days.
Many of us are wasting to ride many pounds below our natural riding weight, but all the while you also want to ensure that you are as strong as possible so that you can give your mount every possible chance in a race. If you make the weight but are too weak to ride properly, the whole exercise has been a waste of time.
The jockeys are very grateful to the Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan Global Arabian Flat Racing Festival for being involved in the partnership that funds the project. It is important to all of us, but especially those who have no real knowledge of the subject.
There are many tough sides to being a jockey. Injury is something we all dread, but spending lengthy periods in the bath or the sauna just to shed a few pounds can be an exhausting and draining experience.
It follows that if you are receiving the right nutrients and giving your body every chance to recover, then no lasting damage should be done. But for many, it is a long road, and we all need assistance at some stage.
I have been working with Frankie Dettori on this project and we have joined a panel of experts, which include a clinical psychologist, physiologists and others.
It is important to all of us that we find out as much as possible about this subject, so that it can be of benefit to everybody.
I hope that future generations of jockeys will think that it was worth it. Next week is a rarity for most in our profession -- we have three consecutive days off. I know there will be a couple of the boys who will argue that it is easier to keep the weight off if you are fully occupied but I, for one, will be making the most of my mini-break.
Luckily, I do not have any light rides over the festive period, so I will be able to eat Christmas dinner just like everybody else.
I will not be going mad, but it will be a nice experience to eat some turkey and the trimmings without having to worry how much you are going to weigh when you step on to the scales the next day. (© Daily Telegraph, London)