Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Racehorse fatalities

I thought this was an interesting study, though a few points to consider:

The study was conducted over only one year

What about career-ending injuries versus deaths? Or on-track versus off-track euthanasias? Or soft-tissue injuries in general?

Track conditions

In addition to drugs used to 'enhance' (or in some cases, just to enable) performance during training, what about the practise of freezing legs, either with legal liniments (1,2,3 or others) and ice boots (sometimes for hours pre-race) prior to racing a horse?

What about joint injections?

I think there are even larger factors to consider, such as the different mindsets between horseracing in Europe and horseracing in Canada or the US. For example, European racehorses seem to be trained for average riding throughout their racing careers - they might be ridden through town or taken out on hacks on the trails after a good morning training gallop or on a day off. Thusly, they command a higher resale price after their racing careers as riding horses (etc). Also, in Europe there seem to be more options for the retired racehorse - steeplechasing, for one. Bute is apparently not used as much as it is over here, and smaller races are made more visible for betting, the latter making for a healthier industry. Perhaps it is time to look at how Europe does it? Is what they do, their mindset, their way of racing, transferrable to Canada and the US?

Just some points to consider as we continue to study racing and ways to improve it!

For future reference, please find the article I linked to above, here below:

Study Finds Racehorses Dying at Faster Rates
Published: March 23, 2010

The first comprehensive analysis of thoroughbred injury data in the United States and Canada shows that racehorses die at the rate of 2.04 per 1,000 starts, a rate twice as deadly as in any other country.

The figure was released on Tuesday by the Jockey Club, which compiled the data over a one-year period beginning Nov. 1, 2008. The information was submitted by 73 racetracks and accounted for 378,864 starts. A start is each time a horse competes in a race. The analysis was performed by Dr. Tim Parkin, a veterinarian and epidemiologist from the University of Glasgow, who serves as a consultant on the project.

“Data collected from a broad cross section of racetracks in the United States and Canada will serve as an important tool for racetracks seeking benchmarks concerning the safety of racehorses,” Parkin said. “Over time, as data continues to be added, the database should yield numerous trends and factors associated with racing injuries and lead to strategies for their prevention.”

Matt Iuliano, executive vice president and executive director of the Jockey Club, said the fatality figure was a starting point, and that Parkin was taking a “deeper dive into the statistics.”

The prime areas of study will be whether synthetic tracks are safer than dirt tracks, and whether medications have an impact on the thoroughbred mortality rate.

Last fall, Rick Arthur, equine medical director for the California Horse Racing Board, released data showing that the number of thoroughbreds in California that had fatal breakdowns had fallen by 40 percent since tracks in the state switched from dirt to synthetic surfaces.

The California numbers also showed that the fatality rates did not decrease during training hours, when there are no medication regulations, supporting a contention among many veterinarians that the legal and illegal use of drugs has contributed to the high rate.

In Europe and other countries where racing is conducted less often, and mainly on turf and under more stringent rules about the use of medication, deaths of racehorses are far less frequent. In England, for example, the average risk of fatality ranges from 0.8 to 0.9 per 1,000 starts. In Victoria, Australia, studies reported the risk of fatality from 1989 to 2004 at 0.44 per 1,000 starts.

“We are going to look at everything, and measure everything,” Iuliano said. “And decide how best to proceed to make the sport safer.”


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