Australian Racehorse Wastage Evaluated

Researchers believe improved training and breeding could lead to reduced wastage and more “viable” horses.
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More than one-third of racehorses leave the industry every year due to factors including injury and poor performance, a phenomenon known as “wastage.” But one Australian research group believes improved training, breeding, and behavior management could lead to reduced wastage and a greater proportion of “viable” horses.

“If—and it’s a mighty big ‘if’—we could reduce wastage that results from unwelcome behavior, then maybe horses would be considered viable for longer and, thus, less disposable,” said Paul McGreevy, BVSc, PhD, MRCVS, MACVS (Animal Welfare), Cert CABC, animal behavior and welfare science professor at the University of Sydney.

The Thoroughbred breeding industry operates on turnover, meaning it relies on a certain number of horses leaving the track, McGreevy said. At the same time, industry members know that roughly half the foals born won’t make it to the track at all, he said. While this culture of overbreeding might work for the industry’s financial models, McGreevy said it isn’t necessarily conducive to good equine welfare.

“If we were ever to make all the horses high-performance with low risk of injury and optimal behavior, there would indeed still be too many horses, but they’d be more viable,” McGreevy said. “With the right feedback and the right demand for ethical sustainable racing, this formula could conceivably arrest some of the overbreeding

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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