Equine Veterinary Journal Early View April 2017
By Heather Ferguson
Description of veterinary events and risk factors for fatality in National Hunt flat racing Thoroughbreds in Great Britain (2000-2013)
E. Allen, S. M. Rosanowski, A. J. Stirk and K. L. P. Verheyen
This study of 40,770 race starts aimed to evaluate veterinary events and fatalities in all National Hunt flat races. A veterinary event represented any injury or cause for the horse to be examined and/or treated by an on-course veterinary surgeon. In total 530 veterinary events were recorded i.e. 13 per 1000 starts. Fractures were the most common event, representing 23.5% of veterinary events and an incidence of 3.1 per 1000 starts. The majority (67%) involved the distal limb. Tendon and ligament injuries were the next most common event (16.4% or 2.2 per 1000 starts), with the superficial digital flexor tendon being the most commonly injured structure. In 59 veterinary events, gait abnormalities (lameness or stiffness) were recorded.
The incidence of cardiovascular problems was 0.5 per 1000 starts. Of these, vascular catastrophe accounted for 66%. The majority of respiratory events were epistaxis. Most of the 63 metabolic events related to heat exhaustion or fatigue. A fatal outcome was recorded in 117 (21.5%) of veterinary events, giving an incidence of 2.9 per 1000 starts. The majority of these were due to bony injuries, which most commonly occurred in metacarpal III or metatarsal III. Nine tendon or ligament injuries described were fatal. All fatal cardiovascular events were due to vascular catastrophe. Races restricted to conditional jockeys were more likely to have a fatality and the odds of death were higher in horses in their first race compared to those which had run before.
The incidence of fatalities in National Hunt flat races is 2.9 per 1000 race starts. The risk of fatality is greater in races restricted to conditional jockeys and in horses running their first race.