Welfare efforts have focused on the racing industry with state racing boards, the American Association of Equine Practitioners, and the British Horseracing Authority stepping up to improve conditions and reduce casualties.
Racing data is collected in Great Britain for every race each day. Researchers in Britain retrospectively looked at incidents occurring between 2000-2013 in an effort to identify specific risk factors involved in fatalities, distal limb fractures, and exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage (epistaxis or EIPH) in flat racing Thoroughbreds over all-weather surfaces [Rosanowski, S.M.; Chang, Y.M.; et al. Risk factors for race-day fatality, distal limb fracture and epistaxis in Thoroughbreds racing on all-weather surfaces in Great Britain (2000 to 2013) Preventive Veterinary Medicine 148 (2017) 58–65].
A previous study looked at fatality risk based on track surface. From 2009-2013, horses racing over a dirt surface were at highest risk of fatality compared to horses running on turf or an all-weather surface.
The incidence of fatalities in Great Britain from 2000-2013 was 0.9 per 1,000 starts (233 horses); of distal limb fractures was 0.95 per 1,000 starts (245 horses); and of epistaxis was 1.59 per 1,000 starts (410 horses).
The review revealed that older horses or those horses started in racing at an older age were “at higher risk of an adverse outcome.” This correlates with previous studies that stipulate that fatal musculoskeletal injury risk is higher in horses four years old or older and in those that begin a race career as a three or four-year old rather than the typical start time of two years of age.
In general, faster speed correlated with a higher incidence of epistaxis, but not fatality. Longer distances increased fatality risk, but not epistaxis. While epistaxis correlated to the type of all-weather surface the horses ran on, the surface type was not associated with fatality or distal limb fractures. More experienced jockeys and trainers are associated with lower risks for the common adverse events in racing.