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Keywords:

  • horse;
  • Thoroughbred;
  • racing;
  • lateral condyle;
  • fractures;
  • risk factors

Summary

Reasons for performing study: Lateral condylar fractures of the third metacarpus/metatarsus are the most common cause of equine fatality on UK racecourses. Identification of risk factors for such injuries and the subsequent implementation of intervention strategies could significantly reduce the total number of racecourse fatalities.

Objectives: To identify horse-, race- and course-level risk factors for fatal lateral condylar fracture in Thoroughbreds on UK racecourses.

Methods: Case-control study designs were used. Case horses were defined as those that were subjected to euthanasia having sustained an irreparable lateral condylar fracture while racing at any of the 59 UK racecourses. Case races were defined as those in which one or more horses sustained a fatal lateral condylar fracture. Three controls for each case horse were selected at random from the race in which the case was running. Three controls for each case race were selected at random from all races of the same type held in the same year. Ninety-eight cases were included in the study. Conditional logistic regression was used to identify the relationship between a number of independent variables and the likelihood of fracture.

Results: Horses doing no gallop work during training and those in their first year of racing were at significantly increased risk of fracture on the racecourse. Case horses were also more likely to have started racing as 3- or 4-year-olds. Fractures were found to be more likely in longer races with a larger number of runners, races in which professional jockeys were not permitted to ride and races in which the going was described as firm or hard.

Conclusions and potential relevance: Modifications to training schedules, specifically within the first year of racing, may have a large impact on the risk of fatal lateral condylar fracture on the racecourse. Horses should do some gallop work in training and our results suggest that the minimum distance galloped should be between 201 m (1 furlong) and 1609 m (8 furlongs) per week. The association with age at first race requires further investigation for flat and National Hunt racing separately. A reduction in the number of races taking place on very firm going could have an impact on the number of lateral condylar fractures.