The Equine Injury Database first started reporting thoroughbred fatality rates in 2009, and positive news has surfaced that the sport has improved its standard in this department. Fatality rates amongst thoroughbreds were down 14% in 2015 compared to the year before. In 2014, there were 1.89 deaths per 1000 horses at the thoroughbred level. That number dropped to 1.62 last year.
All track surfaces are included and it is interesting to note that dirt tracks experiences a spike in thoroughbred fatality rates. There were 1.78 deaths per 1,000 on dirt surfaces in 2015. That number is down from the 2.00 it was at the year before. Synthetic surfaces had the lowest thoroughbred fatality rate at 1.18, while grass was in between at 1.22.
Distance was also a contributing factor. Shorter races of six furlongs or less proved to cause more injuries, most likely due to the sever strain of sprinting to begin with. Middle and long distances weren’t as prone but still had some issues as well. Two year olds are also the least prone to life-ending injury, while older horses become more susceptible.
Dr. Tim Parkin is veterinarian at the University of Glasgow and oversaw the Equine Injury Database study. “We’ve seen a significant decrease in the number of fatalities and that is certainly very encouraging,” said Parkin, “We will continue to examine data and look for trends, but the wide-ranging safety initiatives embraced by tracks, horsemen, and regulators in recent years have very likely played a role in the reduction of injuries and fatalities.”
Moving forward in to 2016, the strong majority of tracks will be reporting data privately to the EID so that better research and analysis can be performed. Reported 96% of tracks will be submitting information. Thirty tracks will make their findings public.
The Jockey Club president and chief operating officer James Gagliano praised the efforts of EID in helping track and improve thoroughbred fatality rates. “This database was created with the goal of improving safety and preventing injuries, and we are now doing that thanks to the participation and cooperation of so many racetracks. We applaud all tracks that have contributed data to this project, and we are especially grateful to those who have chosen to make their statistics publicly available on the EID website.”