Getting to the Bottom of Sudden Death in Sport Horses

There’s been very little scientific study into sudden death in sport horses, but researchers recently reviewed a number of incidents with the ultimate goal of reducing the number of fatalities that occur.
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Sudden Death in Sport Horses
Twenty-three (40%) of the study horses were three-day eventers. | Photo: Stephanie L. Church/The Horse

Sudden death in sport horses is a rare, but traumatizing, tragedy. While it often gets significant media attention, particularly when it happens during high-level and/or international events, there’s been very little scientific study into these occurrences.

That’s why researchers in the U.S. and Switzerland recently teamed up with the Swiss Equestrian Federation to look into the statistics of sudden death in sport horses. Their overview of incident details, they said, is a good starting point for further research into the phenomenon in hopes of reducing the number of incidents.

“Sudden death is important because it affects not only the health of horses but also the safety of riders and the public perception of welfare during equestrian sports,” said Cristobal Navas de Solis, MS, PhD, LV, Dipl. ACVIM, of the University of Bern Vetsuisse Faculty, in Switzerland, and Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, in College Station, Texas

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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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