Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Making racing safer

What can be done to limit the number of horses dying as a result of racing injuries? It is hoped that  analysis of data on  fatal injuries will offer some suggestions. 

At the third Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit held at Keeneland, Kentucky on June 28 and 29, Dr. Tim Parkin, epidemiologist from the University of Glasgow’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, presented a preliminary analysis of racing fatalities in North America from data compiled in the Equine Injury Database (EID).

The analysis was based on data on Thoroughbred flat racing in the EID collected on 73 racetracks between November 1, 2008 and October 31, 2009  - a total of 378,864 starts. Horses that suffered a fatal injury during or immediately after a race, or that died later as a result of an injury that occurred during racing, were included in the analysis.

Among Dr Parkin's findings were:

Starts made by 2-year-olds were less likely to end in fatality than starts made by older horses. Females were not at increased risk of fatality when racing against males. Starts made by females were less likely to end in fatality than starts made by intact males.

No statistically significant difference was found in the incidence of fatality on different surfaces, with different surface conditions, in different race distances, or in horses carrying different weights.

No firm recommendations can be made at this stage. As the data contained in the EID continues to grow, some of the current statistical conclusions may change as a reflection of increased certainty associated with a larger data set.

“This preliminary analysis just scratches the surface,” said Parkin, who serves as a consultant on the Equine Injury Database. “As the number of starts recorded in the database continues to grow, more complex statistical analyses can focus upon multiple variables studied in concert to better understand the myriad of factors which may contribute to fatal and non-fatal injuries. In addition, differences that may not have achieved statistical significance after one year of data collection may do so with additional observations recorded in the database.”

“The work presented today represents a starting point, not a destination,” said Dr. Mary Scollay, equine medical director for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and a consultant on the Equine Injury Database. “This begins to answer the question of what is happening. The ‘how’ and ‘why’ remain to be determined.”

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