The Importance of Identifying Lower and Upper Limb Lameness

In Thoroughbred racing, injuries to the limbs are a major welfare and safety concern, the leading reason for horses to be taken out of training. Lameness causes a high turnover in racing stables and, as many trainers know, it has huge financial implications for the owner, trainer, and the racing industry in general. Previous investigators have found that just over 50% of horses in training in England and Germany experience lameness during training, and approximately 20% of horses in the U.K. suffer lameness that prevents them from returning to training. With this amount of horses on lay-up, it can be difficult to run a profitable racing stable.

In addition to having an impact on the horse’s welfare, severe musculoskeletal injury poses a serious danger for riders, who are at risk when a horse sustains a catastrophic injury or suffers sudden death.  Researchers in the U.S. found that a jockey was 171 times more likely to be injured when a horse they were riding in a race died. In Thoroughbred racing, the most common life-threatening injury to horses involves fractures of bones in the fetlock. Therefore, the best way to improve safety and welfare of both horses and jockeys is to highlight risk factors for fractures in an attempt to prevent these catastrophic traumas.

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