Preventing Injuries in Thoroughbred Racehorses

One veterinarian suggests using a combination of careful planning, management, screening, and education to help reduce racehorses’ risk of sustaining catastrophic fractures.

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The big names are recognizable: Barbaro, Eight Belles, St Nicholas Abbey. But hundreds of other racehorses have suffered racing or training injuries that ultimately proved fatal, as well. And while everyone would like to see the number of catastrophic injuries that occur on racetracks reduced, finding ways to actually accomplish that is easier said than done.

Christopher Riggs, BVSc, PhD, DEO, Dipl. ECVS, MRCVS, head of Veterinary Clinical Services at the Hong Kong Jockey Club, shared some suggestions on how we can work to prevent racehorse injuries at the 2014 British Equine Veterinary Association Congress, held Sept. 10-13 in Birmingham, U.K.

Riggs said fractures are to blame for more than 80% of catastrophic injuries in Thoroughbred racehorses.

"The prevalence of such incidents varies greatly between racing jurisdictions and race types, but typically ranges between 6.6 fractures per 1,000 starters in jump races and 0.9 fractures per 1,000 starters in flat racing," he said. "The loss of these horses is a significant ongoing issue for the industry, both financially and in terms of human and equine welfare

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Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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