Racehorse Breakdowns: The Importance of Post-Mortem Exams

The ultimate goal of any post-mortem exam program is to mitigate racehorse injury risk and, in turn, that of the exercise riders and jockeys involved.

More than 80% of horses that suffer a fatal musculoskeletal injury have pre-existing underlying pathology related to the fracture, indicating that the final catastrophic event is the culmination of repetitive wear and not an isolated incident caused by a “bad step.” | Photo: iStock

I often answer the question, “Why would someone want a postmortem exam on an animal?”

As a veterinary pathologist involved in a necropsy program for racehorses that have sustained injuries on the racetrack, I get much the same question from both lay people and professionals in the horse industry.

People understand why a postmortem is warranted in a case of sudden death but understanding the need for a necropsy on a horse that has sustained a catastrophic musculoskeletal injury might be less clear. Like all athletes, Thoroughbred racehorses experience a consistent pattern of repetitive use wear associated with their musculoskeletal systems. An analogy familiar to most is the term “tennis elbow.” For people with even a passing familiarity with sports, “Tommy John” surgery for baseball pitchers is a commonly recognized term, as rotator cuff injuries also are a familiar malady in

Create a free account with TheHorse.com to view this content.

TheHorse.com is home to thousands of free articles about horse health care. In order to access some of our exclusive free content, you must be signed into TheHorse.com.

Start your free account today!

Already have an account?
and continue reading.


Written by:

Related Articles

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with

FREE weekly newsletters from TheHorse.com

Sponsored Content

Weekly Poll

sponsored by:

Do you use heated water buckets for your horses?
267 votes · 267 answers

Readers’ Most Popular

Sign In

Don’t have an account? Register for a FREE account here.

Need to update your account?

You need to be logged in to fill out this form

Create a free account with TheHorse.com!