Characteristics of Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racehorses that sustained a complete scapular fracture

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Summary

Reasons for performing study: To determine if scapular fractures occur in racehorses with distinctive characteristics.

Objectives: To test the hypothesis that Thoroughbred (TB) and Quarter Horse (QH) racehorses with a scapular fracture have similar characteristics that are different from those of their respective racetrack populations.

Methods: Necropsy findings, case details, last race information and career earnings for TB and QH racehorses that had a scapular fracture in California between 1990 and 2008 were retrospectively compared between breeds. Horse signalment, career earnings, career starts and race characteristics were obtained for all California racehorses. Comparisons were made between affected horses, other racehorses that died, and all horses that raced, in California during the 19 year period.

Results: Seventy-three TB and 28 QH racehorses had a similar, complete comminuted scapular fracture with an articular component, and right forelimb predilection. The QHs had a higher incidence of scapular fracture incurred during racing than TBs (0.98 vs. 0.39/1000 starters). The TB and QH incident rates for musculoskeletal deaths incurred racing were 20.5 and 17.5/1000 starters, respectively; however, a greater proportion of TB musculoskeletal deaths occurred training (40% vs. 8%). Horses with a scapular fracture were more likely to be male and aged 2 or ≥5 years than the racetrack population. Most affected QHs (64%) were 2-year-olds; most TBs (74%) were aged ≥3 years. Scapular fractures occurred more commonly during racing in QHs (70%) than TBs (44%). Race-related scapular fracture was more likely to occur in a Maiden race than in a non-Maiden race. Horses with a scapular fracture had fewer career starts than the racetrack population.

Conclusions and potential relevance: Despite breed differences for signalment and exercise distances, both breeds incur a complete scapular fracture that is more likely to occur in the right scapula of young and older, male racehorses, early in their race career or after few races. Quarter Horses sustain a catastrophic scapular fracture more frequently than TBs.

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