What are the biggest risk factors for injury in thoroughbred racing?

Thoroughbred racing horse on track in the sunrise

Dr Peta Lee Hitchens, an epidemiologist in the Equine Orthopaedic Research Group based at U-Vet Werribee Equine Centre recently discussed her new paper, which analysed almost 300 risk factors in flat racing to determine those most likely to lead to a catastrophic injury on the track.

Veterinary epidemiologist Dr Peta Lee Hitchens
Image:  Veterinary epidemiologist Dr Peta Lee Hitchens

She told US website The Horse that factors including  horse age and sex, race class, track conditions and distance show consistent evidence of increasing risk, but also emphasised two risk factors related to recent exercise history.

“Horses with well-adapted bone may sustain a fatal injury as a result of accumulated bone damage following a period of intense high-speed training, and …horses with poorly adapted bone that are training at relatively low levels of intensity or coming back from a layup and are then introduced to high-speed exercise too rapidly were also at increased risk of sustaining a fatal injury,” Dr Hitchens said.

The Equine Orthopaedic Research Group is developing strategies to detect this type of bone damage early to improve safety for both thoroughbred racehorses and jockeys.

Find out more about risk factors and how veterinary epidemiologists approach problems at The Horse.

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