EQUUS - - Eq Letters -

The rate of fa­tal in­juries to Amer­i­can race­horses ap­pears to be hold­ing fairly steady, ac­cord­ing to statis­tics re­leased by The Jockey Club this spring.

A re­port based on The Jockey Club’s Equine In­jury Data­base, which re­ceives data from more than 90 race­tracks across the coun­try, shows that over­all fa­tal in­juries to horses dropped slightly in 2014 com­pared to the pre­vi­ous year, with the rate go­ing from 1.90 per 1,000 starts in 2013 to 1.89 per 1,000 starts in 2014.

In con­trast, turf rac­ing showed a 27 per­cent in­crease in fa­tal ac­ci­dents in 2014 on grass sur­faces, af­ter a 20 per­cent de­crease the pre­vi­ous year. The in­ci­dence of fa­tal in­juries on dirt de­creased 3.8 per­cent in 2014 from the pre­vi­ous year, and on syn­thetic tracks the rate dropped by 1.6 per­cent.

“We can say from th­ese data that horses who run on syn­thetic tracks have much less risk of a break­down than those run­ning on turf or dirt,” says Tim Parkin, a vet­eri­nar­ian and epi­demi­ol­o­gist at the Uni­ver­sity of Glas­gow in Scot­land who serves as a con­sul­tant for the Equine In­jury Data­base.

Sum­mary statis­tics have been pub­lished an­nu­ally since 2009. In ad­di­tion, Parkin is work­ing to iden­tify fac­tors that may con­trib­ute to an in­creased in­ci­dence of in­jury. “We an­a­lyze an in­cred­i­ble amount of in­for­ma­tion for ev­ery start for each horse, rang­ing from the track con­di­tions to how many times in the pre­vi­ous 30, 60 or 90 days that horse ran,” he says, adding that the vol­ume of data col­lected year af­ter year will make it eas­ier to make mean­ing­ful in­ter­pre­ta­tions. Cur­rently, the data­base con­tains in­for­ma­tion gath­ered from more than two mil­lion starts.

Ul­ti­mately, says Parkin, con­tin­ued data col­lec­tion and anal­y­sis may save equine lives. “Our hope is that we can cre­ate mod­els that will in­di­cate when horses are at an in­creased risk of a break­down in a par­tic­u­lar race, based on a huge num­ber of vari­ables,” he says.

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