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Keywords:

  • horse;
  • Thoroughbred;
  • racecourse;
  • fatal fractures;
  • distal limb;
  • risk factors

Summary

Reasons for performing study: Considerable variation in the rates of equine fatality at different racecourses draws attention to probable risk factors at the level of course or race that might be partly responsible. Distal limb fractures are the most common cause of equine fatality on UK racecourses and identification of risk factors for such injuries and subsequent implementation of intervention strategies could significantly reduce the total number of racecourse fatalities.

Objectives: To identify race- and course-level risk factors for fatal distal limb fracture in Thoroughbreds on UK racecourses.

Methods: A case-control study design was used. Case races were defined as those in which one or more horses sustained fatal fracture of the distal limb. Controls were selected in 2 different ways. Firstly, 3 races in which no fracture occurred were selected from all races of the same type held within 5 days of the case race (Analysis 1). Secondly, 3 control races were selected for each case race from all races of the same type held in the same year (Analysis 2). One hundred and nine cases were included in the study. Information about the race and the racecourses was collected from Computer Raceform. Conditional logistic regression was used to identify the relationship between a number of independent variables and the likelihood of fracture in a race.

Results: Longer races with a larger number of runners were more likely to contain a fracture. Firmer going and fewer days since the last race on the same course were associated with an increased risk of fracture. The going at the course at the previous race meeting was also associated with the likelihood of fracture.

Conclusions: Modifications to the going on the day of a race and greater emphasis on ground maintenance between race meetings may have an impact on the risk of fatal distal limb fracture during racing.

Potential relevance: Modification of risk factors such as the going and number of days since the last race meeting could reduce the number of equine fatalities on UK racecourses. The condition of the racecourse may be an important risk factor and future research should focus on the identification of course maintenance techniques that produce the safest possible racing surfaces.