The Brock Talk

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Jockeys, Retired Racehorses Addressed at Safety Summit

Monday and Tuesday this week, representatives from throughout the racing industry gathered at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky., in a health and safety summit. Among some of the best recommendations of the meeting is the establishment of an injury data base for jockeys and exercise riders at race tracks and the accreditation of equine welfare groups as announced by the participants Tuesday.

The summit was administered by the Grayson-Jockey Club Foundation and has been held in three of the past four years.

During the first day of the two-day summit, Dr. Tim Parkin, noted 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. Dr. Parkin is also a consultant for the Equine Injury Database.
Saying, “this preliminary analysis just scratches the surface,” Dr. Parkin acknowledged that as the database continues to grow, more complex statistical analysis can provide additional information. However, according to Dr. Parkin, the study of 378,864 total starts in Thoroughbred flat races at 73 racetracks had several conclusions during the first year of the study.

1.) The incidence of fatality in 2-year-olds for the one-year period was significantly lower than that of older horses, 3 years of age and up

2.) The incidence of fatality in fillies, mares and geldings for the one-year period was significantly lower than that of intact males

3.) The incidence of fatality for the one-year period was not significantly different for horses racing at different distances or carrying different weights

4.) The incidence of fatality for the one-year period was not significantly different for dirt, synthetic and turf racing surfaces, or condition of the dirt and turf racing surfaces

The summit was also the catalyst for the National Thoroughbred Racing Association's Safety and Integrity Alliance, an accreditation program for racetracks in operation today.

Tuesday, summit participants addressed the development of objectives and strategies in four areas including Racing Equipment and Safety; Racetrack Environment and Training Practices; Education, Licensing and Continuing Education; and Transitioning Thoroughbreds to Second Careers.

Among the primary objectives identified was the establishment of a rider injury database similar to the Equine Injury Database currently being implemented and studied. The study will collect information for analysis from racetracks, insurance companies, and workers' compensation programs for the jockey and exercise rider study. The conclusions will be used to determine if steps can be taken to increase the safety of riders at the race tracks in the morning and afternoon.

Another goal of the summit participants was the creation of a track liaison position at each racetrack to coordinate aftercare of retired racehorses as well as an accreditation program for organizations involved in the placement of retired racehorses. There are several organizations throughout North America that are finding homes and second careers for retired race horses, but there is little regulation and at times little affiliation with local track management. Although there are a number of tracks that are involved in the process. The committee also recommended the creation of veterinary guidelines, in conjunction with the American Association of Equine Practitioners, to determine potential and appropriate second careers for racehorses based on their physical condition at time of retirement.

Recommendations also included the formalization of reciprocity of veterinarians’, stewards’ and starters’ lists on a national basis; and implementation of advanced safety equipment, including starting gates and safety rails, on a phased basis, depending on data, development of a comprehensive database of track maintenance, training and veterinary records that could be integrated with existing databases pertaining to human and equine safety.

There was also discussion of the establishment of a mechanism to encourage continuing education for people working with thoroughbreds, including trainers, grooms, farriers, and jockeys, to improve horsemanship and as a means to accreditation.

1 comment:

John said...

Thanks for the report, Brock.

I've always been of the mind that it's too early to make a legitimate judgement on the synthetics, although I know a lot of people hate these surfaces. It also seems that I read another report a few days ago--which I can't find now--which indicated a higher race of fatalities on dirt as opposed to synthetics; unless it was overall injuries, fatal and non-fatal. I can't remember because I can't find the other report.

Having said that, I wish there was one universal racing surface: grass, although pedigree obviously dictates which surface a horse is better suited to, at least in the U.S. But isn't grass a bit kinder to horses than dirt? I don't know, but it seems I heard this somewhere. Or perhaps it's because I do like turf racing, which is the surface in Europe, where, to my understanding fatalities are much lower. I would think this is due to a variety of factors though, and not just racing surface.