Racing industry launches equine injury database

System can spot trends, risks, improve horses' safety, says DVM who developed it
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Sep 01, 2008

Lexington, Ky. — A system that will provide the Thoroughbred racing industry with its first national database of racetrack injuries is off and running.

And the veterinarian who pioneered the system believes it has the potential to reduce dramatically the number and severity of horse injuries over time.

The Jockey Club, which funded the development of the Equine Injury Database, announced its official launch in late July, after a one-year pilot program ended July 12.

During the trial year, some 3,000 injury reports were gathered from 60-plus tracks around the country and evaluated. The system underwent even more comprehensive testing recently in California.

These are its objectives, as defined by the Jockey Club:

» identify the frequency, types and outcome of racing injuries using a standardized format that will generate valid statistics

» identify markers for horses that are at increased risk for injury

» serve as a data source for research directed at improving safety and preventing injuries.

"The possibilities for what this can accomplish are limitless," Mary Scollay, DVM and equine medical director for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, tells DVM Newsmagazine.

"We've never had anything like this. You can't go back and recapture data from the past, but going forward we'll be able to identify trends, horses that are most at risk for injury and much more. I'm so pleased at how well this (pilot program) went and how the industry has embraced it," says Scollay, who is credited with developing the system that began testing in June 2007.

Regulatory veterinarians around the country played a key role in "giving assurances and convincing their leaders of the need for this and to participate," Scollay says. "They deserve credit. And Dr. Rick Arthur (California's equine medical director) was very helpful," she adds. "California has specific guidelines as to the information it requires to be recorded, and our system had to become compatible with theirs."

How does it work?

When an injury occurs, track veterinarians fill out standardized reports, providing such details as the type of track surface, length and configuration of the track, where on the track an injury occurred, type and body location of the injury, equipment that was involved and what type of track the horse is accustomed to during training — which might differ from the one where it was injured.

While all reports are maintained online, track veterinarians often make paper copies initially, if Internet access isn't nearby when an injury occurs. "Hard copies are kept for internal use, and then entered online, but veterinarians who need to do so are welcome to submit a hard copy," Scollay explains.

"Once a horse is identified as having been injured, we can continue tracking it, noting the interval from injury to eventual return and how it performs, or if it is withdrawn from racing."