Preventing a horse health problem can go from challenging to nearly impossible if veterinarians don’t know why it develops or what makes a horse more or less likely to be affected. Take epistaxis (a fancy name for bleeding from the nose), for instance. Although this condition isn’t uncommon in racehorses, scientists still don’t fully understand why it develops.

“The associations with risk factors are hard to answer,” said Richard Reardon, BVetMed(hons), MVM, PhD, CertES (Orth), Dipl. ECVS, MRCVS, senior lecturer at Edinburgh University’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, in Scotland.

So he and colleagues recently completed a study to try to better understand the risk factors for epistaxis in hurdle and steeplechase horses.

The team found that both hurdle and steeplechase racehorses had an increased risk of epistaxis when running on firm ground. “The link with firm going is not known,” Reardon said, “but thought to be related to impact trauma in the lungs.”

The researchers also determined that both groups of horses were at higher risk when more than 75% of their career starts occurred in flat racing.

Further, the team found racing in the spring and age at first start to be risk factors limited to hurdle racers. “It’s possible the horses that start racing later are genetically predisposed,” Reardon relayed. “Or, an injury during training necessitated a period of rest resulting in a later start and that this, rather than age, was the important risk factor for epistaxis.”

Conversely, running in claiming races and having an increa