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Risk factors and prevalence of injuries in horses during various types of steeplechase races

Jennifer O. StephenRoyal Veterinary College, North Mymms, Hatfield, Hertfordshire, AL9 7TA UK.

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 BVMS
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Nathaniel A. White IIMarion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center, Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, Virginia Tech, 17690 Old Waterford Rd, Leesburg, VA 20176.

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 DVM, MS, DACVS
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William H. McCormickMiddleburg Equine Clinic, 35389 Millville Rd, Middleburg, VA 20117.

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R. Reynolds CowlesBlue Ridge Equine Hospital, 4510 Mockernut Ln, Earlysville, VA 22936.

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Kevin T. T. CorleyRoyal Veterinary College, North Mymms, Hatfield, Hertfordshire, AL9 7TA UK.

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 BVMS, PhD, DACVIM, DACVECC

Abstract

Objective—To identify the types of injuries sustained by horses that competed in steeplechase races and determine the prevalence of and risk factors for those injuries.

Design—Prospective study.

Animals—2,680 horses that competed in various types of steeplechase races from 1996 through 2000.

Procedure—Data regarding races; environment; equipment problems; the number of horses that entered, started, and finished races; the number of riders that fell; and the number of horses that were slowed or stopped by the rider, ran off the course, fell, and sustained injuries or physical abnormalities during races were collected on a standard form by the official veterinarian who attended each meet. Data from all meets were not recorded; however, in recorded meets, data from every race were reported.

Results—Data for 197 hurdle, 65 timber, 76 flat, and 8 mixed races were recorded. Nine (3.4/1,000 horses that started in races) horses died or were euthanatized, and 7 of those were associated with catastrophic musculoskeletal injury. Seven fractures were recorded. Four fractures involved forelimbs, 1 involved a hind limb, and 2 involved the cervical portion of the vertebral column. All horses with fractures were euthanatized. Deep or hard course conditions were associated with an increased risk of breakdown injuries.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Successful development and implementation of strategies to prevent injuries and death in horses in steeplechase races depend on a clear understanding of the types and prevalence of injuries involved and risk factors associated with those injuries. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2003;223:1788–1790)

Abstract

Objective—To identify the types of injuries sustained by horses that competed in steeplechase races and determine the prevalence of and risk factors for those injuries.

Design—Prospective study.

Animals—2,680 horses that competed in various types of steeplechase races from 1996 through 2000.

Procedure—Data regarding races; environment; equipment problems; the number of horses that entered, started, and finished races; the number of riders that fell; and the number of horses that were slowed or stopped by the rider, ran off the course, fell, and sustained injuries or physical abnormalities during races were collected on a standard form by the official veterinarian who attended each meet. Data from all meets were not recorded; however, in recorded meets, data from every race were reported.

Results—Data for 197 hurdle, 65 timber, 76 flat, and 8 mixed races were recorded. Nine (3.4/1,000 horses that started in races) horses died or were euthanatized, and 7 of those were associated with catastrophic musculoskeletal injury. Seven fractures were recorded. Four fractures involved forelimbs, 1 involved a hind limb, and 2 involved the cervical portion of the vertebral column. All horses with fractures were euthanatized. Deep or hard course conditions were associated with an increased risk of breakdown injuries.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Successful development and implementation of strategies to prevent injuries and death in horses in steeplechase races depend on a clear understanding of the types and prevalence of injuries involved and risk factors associated with those injuries. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2003;223:1788–1790)