Written by VIVIAN GRANT
Thoroughbred racing gathered together today to talk about why horses are breaking down and dying on racetracks. The object of their attention is once again — racing surfaces — just as it always seems to be when racehorse safety comes up.
The excellent Tom LaMarra sums up the day in the Blood Horse.
An initial analysis of equine injury data released earlier this year shows no statistically significant difference in the risk of fatalities in Thoroughbreds on different racing surfaces, officials said June 28 during the third Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit.
It appears to me (and a handful of others in horse racing with their thinking caps on) there is good reason for this, and we do not need a clever Scotsman to tell us. Perhaps it is not the surfaces the horses are running on. Why not take a critical look at breeding, drugging and training practices, including how often horses are run and at what age.
But no, officials will press on with this for awhile longer, it seems.
The analysis of information contained in the Equine Injury Database looked at factors that could be associated with fatal breakdowns. The results are strictly preliminary; in fact, officials said it could take a few more years of data to even consider a more detailed study.
“This will take time,” said Dr. Tim Parkin of the University of Glasgow in Scotland. “There are no quick answers. We need to consider (multi-factor models), but we probably need at least three years of full data.”
Non-fatal injuries will probably be addressed in the future, he added.
There were a few interesting statistics gathered from the database analysis.
The analysis also showed female horses had a lower fatality rate than intact male horses; that females weren’t at increased risk when they compete against males; that 2-year-olds were less likely to break down than older horses; that there was no statistically significant difference in fatal injuries with various surface conditions, such as fast or muddy; and that distance and weight had little variance as well.
In general, 2-year-olds were 30%-35% less likely to suffer a fatal injury than older horses. Females were 50% as likely as intact males to suffer a fatal injury.
2-year-olds are less likely to break down than older horses? What older horses? A high proportion of racehorses are too broken down to run or dead by the time they are 3 or 4; a little older if they are lucky enough to have a conscientious owner, trainer and veterinarian.
Next, officials are going to see if they can blame the weather, groundskeepers, the jockeys, or even the horses themselves, for their breaking down and dying.
Parkin noted there are many more factors that could be considered—season, track maintenance, quality of horses, and experience of jockeys, to name only a few—when future data is analyzed.
Parkin concludes with this.
That type of multi-factor analysis could lead to more definitive results; then again, it’s possible the initial numbers won’t change that much.
The initial numbers won’t change that much. Uh, huh.
Racing executives remain complacent and clueless while horses suffer and die, Vivian Grant, Tuesday’s Horse (Jun. 28, 2010)