The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) published a series of safety recommendations on Oct. 11 with the goal of complementing the current risk assessment processes already in place for Thoroughbred racing in the United States. [Editor’s note: The recommendations come during a time of intense scrutiny of the sport due to unusual numbers of equine breakdowns and fatalities at several major tracks.]
The nine safety recommendations stem from the inaugural forum on Thoroughbred Safety & Injury Prevention hosted by the AAEP on September 29–30 in Lexington, Kentucky. The meeting convened 23 invited private racetrack practitioners, regulatory veterinarians, surgeons and radiologists to explore additional measures to reduce racehorse injuries.
The forum focused on two key areas: examination of injury data trends from U.S. and international racing jurisdictions; and exploration of new technologies and their potential use for identifying horses at risk for injury.
‘Critical moment’ for sport
“The forum was born out of our desire to help the racing industry at this critical moment for the sport and offer our veterinary expertise to further prevent racehorse injury,” said Dr. Sara Langsam, AAEP Racing Committee chair. “Our group believes additional progress comes through identifying the at-risk racehorse that appears outwardly sound but is silently brewing a significant injury. We are hopeful our recommendations will help the racing industry conquer this next frontier of Thoroughbred racehorse safety.”
Safety recommendations are focused in three areas:
- identification of the horse at increased risk of injury;
- improved access to higher level diagnostic technology; and
- other means to reduce racehorse injuries.
Among the recommendations are:
• Issuance of a request for proposal for the manufacture of a cost-effective wearable biometric sensor. Wearable biometric sensors detect gait changes in the racehorse and can serve as an indicator that the horse requires evaluation by its veterinary team. Optimally these sensors will be used on every racehorse for every high-speed exercise event, including breezing and racing.
• Employment of post-entry screening by regulatory veterinarians to help identify horses at increased risk based on training and racing records. California currently utilizes post-entry screening as an extra layer of scrutiny before race day, and this additional step has proven helpful in identifying horses at risk for a catastrophic injury.
• Creation of regional PET scan centers at centrally located racetracks throughout the U.S. PET is an advanced imaging modality, and research studies have demonstrated the ability of the PET scan to identify abnormalities associated with an increased risk of injury.
The full list of individual safety recommendations and their rationale, along with a list of Forum on Thoroughbred Safety & Injury Prevention participants, can be found in the event’s report, accessible at https://aaep.org/newsroom/whitepapers/aaep-thoroughbred-injury-prevention-forum-report.
About the AAEP
The American Association of Equine Practitioners, headquartered in Lexington, Kentucky, was founded in 1954 as a non-profit organization dedicated to the health and welfare of the horse. Currently, the AAEP reaches more than 5 million horse owners through its over 9,000 members worldwide and is actively involved in ethics issues, practice management, research and continuing education in the equine veterinary profession and horse industry.