Horse-level risk factors for fatal distal limb fracture in racing Thoroughbreds in the UK

Department of Veterinary Clinical Science, University of Liverpool Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Leahurst, Neston, Wirral CH64 7TE, UK.
Equine Veterinary Journal (Impact Factor: 2.37). 10/2004; 36(6):513-9. DOI: 10.2746/0425164044877332
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Fractures below the level of the radius or tibia (distal limb fractures) are the most common cause of equine fatality on UK racecourses; however, little is known about their epidemiology or aetiology. Identification of risk factors could enable intervention strategies to be designed to reduce the number of fatalities.
To identify horse-level risk factors for fatal distal limb fracture in Thoroughbreds on UK racecourses.
A case-control study design was used. Fractures in case horses were confirmed by post mortem examination and 3 matched uninjured controls were selected from the race in which the case horse was running. One hundred and nine cases were included and information was collected about previous racing history, horse characteristics and training schedules. Conditional logistic regression was used to identify the relationship between a number of independent variables and the likelihood of fracture.
Horses doing no gallop work during training and those in their first year of racing were at significantly increased risk of fracture on the racecourse. Case horses were also more likely to have trained on a sand gallop, i.e. a gallop described by trainers as being primarily composed of sand.
Modifications to training schedules, specifically within the first year of racing, may have a large impact on the risk of fatal distal limb fracture on the racecourse. Horses should do some gallop work in training and our results suggest that the minimum distance galloped should be between 805-2012 m (4-10 furlongs)/week.
The information from this study can be used to alter training schedules in an attempt to reduce the incidence of fatal distal limb fracture in Thoroughbred racehorses. Training should include some gallop work, and further studies, recording the exact level of work, will help to identify an optimum range of training speeds and distances which will reduce the liklihood of catastrophic fracture on the racecourse.

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