Objective—To evaluate horseshoe characteristics and high-speed exercise history as risk factors for catastrophic musculoskeletal injury in Thoroughbred racehorses.
Animals—377 horses (37,529 race starts).
Procedure—Shoe characteristics included material, toe grab height, heel traction device, pads, and rim shoes. Racing variables were obtained from a computerized database. Forty-three horses that had a musculoskeletal injury and then failed to race or train for 6 months (cases) and 334 noninjured horses from the same race in which a horse was injured (controls) were compared regarding risk factors.
Results—Overall, 98% of race starts were associated with aluminum shoes, 85% with toe grabs, 32% with pads, and 12% with rims on forelimb horseshoes. Among 43 horses with musculoskeletal injury, sex (geldings), an extended interval since last race, and reduced exercise during the 30 or 60 days preceding injury were risk factors for catastrophic injury. Odds of injury in racehorses with toe grabs on front shoes were 1.5 times the odds of injury in horses without toe grabs, but this association was not significant (95% confidence interval, 0.5 to 4.1).
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results suggest that horses that return to racing after an extended period of reduced exercise are at high risk of catastrophic musculoskeletal injury. Results regarding the use of toe grabs as a possible risk factor for catastrophic injury were inconclusive because the probability of declaring (in error) that use of toe grabs was associated with an increased risk of musculoskeletal injury (eg, odds ratio > 1.0) was 38%. (Am J Vet Res 2005;66:1314–1320)