A day at the races is usually a relaxing escape from the events in the world going on around us. The dreaded exception is when a racehorse suffers a catastrophic breakdown and/or a jockey is injured.

About a month ago, the 2016 Welfare & Safety of the Racehorse Summit was held to consider what strides have been made in curtailing the number of in-race horse fatalities and what can be done to achieve further improvements.

According to statistics presented from the Equine Injury Database pertaining to horse racing in North America, in 2009, there were 2.0 fatal injuries per 1,000 starts, whereas in 2015 the rate dropped to 1.62. Fatal injuries per-thousand starts by surface were as follows: turf, 1.94 in 2009 and 1.22 in 2015; dirt, 2.10 in 2009 and 1.78 in 2015; and synthetic, 1.49 in 2009 and 1.18 in 2015.

Whenever these findings are shown, the fact always jumping out is that the overwhelming majority of races in North America are contested over the least safe surface, dirt. The reason for this is tradition: trainers and bettors in the United States in particular are used to training over and handicapping dirt races. Keeneland, for instance, uninstalled a synthetic surface and replaced it with a less safe dirt track in order to attract the 2015 Breeders’ Cup.

While it, inarguably, would be desirable from the standpoint of horse safety to have all races on synthetic surfaces, in reality it won’t happen. Thus the effort to make even greater progress in reducing catastrophic injuries will have to be the result of other areas that were discussed at the Summit. For example, Dr. Larry Bramlage of Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital cited overuse of the analgesic and anti-inflammatory drug Depo-Medrol for treating joints and arthritis as a probable cause of breakdowns.

Improvements in reducing catastrophic injuries in recent years are evident and highly qualified professionals are working on even better outcomes.

Copyright © 2016 Horse Racing Business