High-speed exercise history and catastrophic racing fracture in Thoroughbreds

Leah Estberg, Susan M. Stover, Ian A. Gardner, Christiana M. Drake, Bill Johnson, Alex Ardans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


Objective - To investigate the relation between several racing speed history characteristics and risk of fatal skeletal injury (FSI) in racing Thoroughbreds. Animals - 64 Thoroughbreds euthanatized during a 9-month period in 1991 at a California racemeet because of a catastrophic fracture incurred while racing (cases), identified retrospectively. For each race in which an FSI occurred, 1 control horse was randomly selected from the noncatastrophically injured participants. Procedure - Racing and officially timed workout histories were obtained for each horse. Several history characteristics were calculated to summarize racing career patterns and high-speed exercise schedules prior to date of injury and included age at first race, proportion of career spent laid up, average duration of laid up periods, average lifetime racing frequency, time from last lay up to date of injury, and total and rate of distance accumulated 1 to 6 months prior to date of injury. History characteristics associated with FSI were screened by paired t-test and studied in detail, using conditional logistic regression. Results - High total and high average daily rates of exercise distance accumulation within a 2-month period were associated with higher risks for FSI during racing, yet career patterns, such as age at first race or total proportion of career spent laid up, were not found to be associated with risk for FSI. A horse that had accumulated a total of 35 furlongs of race and timed-work distance in 2 months, compared with a horse with 25 furlongs accumulated, had an estimated 3.9-fold increase in risk for racing-related FSI (95% confidence interval = 2.1, 7.1). A horse that had accumulated race and timed-work furlongs at an average rate of 0.6 furlong/d within a 2-month period, compared with a horse with an average of 0.5 furlong/d, had an estimated 1.8-fold increase in risk for racing-related FSI (95% confidence interval = 1.4, 2.6). Conclusions and Clinical Relevance - Thorough-bred racehorses that either accumulate large total high-speed distances or rapidly accumulate high-speed distances within a 2-month period may be at increased risk for FSI during racing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1549-1555
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Veterinary Research
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)


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