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Keywords:

  • horse;
  • epidemiology;
  • fracture;
  • tendon injury;
  • racehorse;
  • incidence

Summary

Reasons for performing study: While fractures and tendon injuries are known to be important diseases in National Hunt (NH) racehorses during racing, there are no accurate estimates of their incidence in NH training yards.

Objectives: To estimate the incidence of fractures and tendon and suspensory ligament injuries (TLIs) in NH racehorses in training; to describe the injuries incurred and to compare injury incidence rates by horse age, trainer, gender and background (ex-flat vs. ex-store horses).

Methods: Cohort data were collected from 14 UK NH training yards for 2 racing seasons. Daily exercise regimens and details of fractures and TLIs occurring in study horses were recorded.

Results: Data were gathered from 1223 horses that spent 9466 months at risk of injury. The fracture incidence rate was 1.1/100 horse months and varied significantly by trainer (P<0.001) but not by gender, age or background. The pelvis and third metacarpal bone (MCIII) were the most common fracture sites, although this varied between racing and training. The TLI incidence rate was 1.9/100 horse months and varied significantly by trainer (P = 0.05) and age (P<0.001) but not by gender or background. However, exstore horses were significantly more likely to have a TLI on the racecourse than ex-flat horses (P = 0.01). Superficial digital flexor injuries accounted for 89% of all TLIs, the remainder being suspensory ligament injuries.

Conclusions and potential relevance: Fractures and TLIs are important causes of morbidity and mortality in NH racehorses in training in England. This study provides accurate estimates of their incidence in this population and provides a baseline against which to monitor the effect of future interventions.