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."
Researchers and veterinarians know that the majority of catastrophic fractures occur due to bone fatigue and excessive loading. So, Riggs said, "through an understanding of the processes involved in fatigue damage of bone, it should be possible to implement strategies to reduce the accumulation of fatigue damage and to facilitate its repair. In addition, the progressive nature of fatigue damage means that, if we can identify the injuries early enough, we can intervene while the damage is still rev