Equine Medical Center To Complete Injury Survey At Colonial Downs

Catastrophic racehorse injuries are a major cause of equine mortality and financial loss in the racing industry, not to mention a serious public relations challenge.

But a newly funded study at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center may help researchers better understand the origins of musculoskeletal injuries, the primary cause of breakdowns on the track.

The Virginia Horse Industry board has approved the first year of a three-year proposal from Drs. Nathaniel White, the Theodora Ayer Randolph Professor of Equine Surgery, and EMC Center Director G. Frederick Fregin, to investigate racing and training injuries at Colonial Downs in New Kent County.

Musculoskeletal injuries- including injuries to bones, joints, tendons, and ligaments, muscles, and the hoof, are a major cause of decreased horse use in the racing industry, according to White.

While the annual economic loss from these injuries remains unquantified, White said, it is estimated to reach one billion dollars annually when considering loss of training fees, lost purses, the cost of replacement horses, cost of veterinary care, and the loss of sales for agricultural products.

The researchers propose to use risk factor analysis in an effort to better understand and perhaps identify some previously unknown causes of musculoskeletal injuries in racehorses.

Previous studies conducted in this area have been primarily concerned with catastrophic injury, White said. The EMC study will more broadly examine factors which increase the risk of injury during both racing and training.

During the first year of the project a survey system will be set up to collect information from veterinarians and trainers about racing and training injuries which occur at Colonial Downs, White said.

During the following two years, information about horses with and without injuries will be used to see if any injuries are associated with factors such as toe grabs, training techniques, or horse conformation.

The information obtained will help identify factors which increase the risk of injury and help start programs which can decrease the injury rate and improve safety for both horses and riders.

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