Finding Success in Reducing Horse Racing Fatalities: Now Where Do We Go?

The occurrence of fatal injuries to horses in flat racing in North America has decreased by 23 percent since the inception of standardized injury reporting into the Jockey Club’s Equine Injury Database, says Dr. Mary Scollay in Equine Disease Quarterly. Fatalities began to decline 2013 and achieved statistical significance in 2015; it is believed that the reduction can be attributed to multiple safety initiatives that have been accepted by the horse racing community.

In Kentucky, in addition to decreasing equine fatalities, there has also been a decrease in regulatory veterinarian-initiated scratches for unsoundness. Additionally, there has been a decrease in horses seen as unsound after racing. All of these factors indicate that the health of the horses has improved.

Some of the safety initiatives credited with improving the health of racehorses include:

  • Employment of Safety Stewards
  • Constraints on traction devices on horseshoes
  • Implementation of “voided claim” regulations
  • Changes to the regulation of therapeutic medications
  • The National Thoroughbred Racing Association’s Safety and Integrity Alliance accreditation of racetracks
  • Systematic, objective monitoring and management of racing surfaces
  • Necropsy programs and Mortality Review panels
  • The adoption of an Association of Racing Commissioners’ Model Rule on the Veterinarians’ List

Some believe that the decrease in fatalities is part of the Hawthorne Effect, where a population is aware it is being observed, so it modifies its behavior.

Regardless of the reasoning, Scollay reinforces that hundreds of horses remained safe that might not have in the past; she notes that there is still work to be done, including investigating biomarkers of early onset orthopedic disease, which will improve decision-making that will affect horses during and after their racing careers. She also feels that more work is needed to identify business models that incentivize human and equine health and safety, and in developing educations programming for all people who handle and care for racehorses.

Scollay warns against complacency, which can lead to risks for both humans and horses, including increased fatalities. “Until North America can legitimately be acknowledged as a leader in protecting the health, safety, and welfare of race horses and those who ride or drive them, our work is far from done, she notes.

Read more at Equine Disease Quarterly.

The post Finding Success in Reducing Horse Racing Fatalities: Now Where Do We Go? appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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