LEXINGTON, Kentucky — The 10th return to an in-person format for the first time since 2018th Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit, held Wednesday at Keeneland’s Sales Pavilion in Lexington, Kentucky, included a series of presentations on the racing industry’s advances in promoting the health of its equine and human athletes, with an emphasis on the importance of data lay relief of these gains.
The summit was co-hosted by The Jockey Club and the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation and is open to the public. It was moderated by Annise Montplaisir, Equine Education Coordinator for the Kentucky Equine Education Project Foundation and President of Amplify Horse Racing.
A video recording of the summit, which was livestreamed, will be posted on Grayson’s website next week.
“The information shared at this year’s Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit demonstrates how the thoroughbred industry can come together to create meaningful positive change,” said Jamie Haydon, President of Grayson. “It is clear that collecting and utilizing comprehensive data is key to maximizing the safety of our human and equestrian athletes. We are grateful to Keeneland for enabling us to host this event and to our speakers for sharing their wealth of knowledge for the benefit of our industry.”
dr Tim Parkin, Head of Bristol Veterinary School, opened presentations with an update on the Equine Injury Database (EID). He reviewed the database’s findings since data collection began in 2009, including a 31.5% decrease in the death rate. He discussed the rise in deaths among 2-year-old children in 2020 and hypothesized that this trend may have been caused by disruptions in training at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Parkin also compared risk changes in horses competing on multiple surfaces versus those racing on one surface. In addition, he pointed out that since the introduction of EID, sudden deaths have accounted for a larger proportion of all deaths, as the decreasing rate of musculoskeletal injuries has outpaced the decrease in sudden death rates.
Building on the information in Parkin’s presentation, dr Larry Bramlage of the Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital on the importance of education for two-year-olds. According to Bramlage, bones are dynamic organs that strengthen and remodel in response to exercise.
“Bone trains the level of work, not the amount. The cardiovascular system trains for the amount of work,” said Bramlage. “The limiting system is always the skeleton in the horse.”
Given this knowledge and the aforementioned spike in 2-year-old deaths in 2020, Bramlage believes 2-year-olds racing this year may have been kept on hold for intensive training due to the uncertainty of race dates. Consequently, the development of their cardiovascular system surpassed that of their skeletal system.
dr Dionne Benson, Chief Veterinary Officer of 1/ST Racing, spoke about the changes being made to the 1/ST tracks following the publicized series of breakdowns at Santa Anita Park in 2019 Competitive and required registration of a horse prior to participation in timed training. Santa Anita recently completed the safest winter/spring meeting ever, seeing a 74% improvement since spring 2019.
“We’ve developed a safety culture out there,” Benson said. “There’s a conscious effort to put the horse first.”
dr Ryan Zimmermanwho is a practicing surgeon at the Equine Medical Center in California, described a program whereby racehorses suffering complex musculoskeletal injuries on the track are given the opportunity to undergo surgery to repair their fractures when the prognosis is favorable for them that they will eventually become grazing land. Sound.
Joseph Appelbaum, President of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, moderated a panel on wearable technology for horses. Valentin Rapin, CEO and co-founder of Arioneo, described his company’s sensors that horses can wear during exercise, which track readings such as heart rate.
Will Duff Gordon, the Chief Executive Officer of Total Performance Data (TPD), spoke about his company’s tracking technology and the potential benefits for players. Equibase is currently working with TPD to make this data usable and recognized the challenge of making this technology scalable.
“They’re looking for a technology that’s achievable, that compromises, where every horse can produce the same information to support welfare and betting, but not in a way that only a few racecourses can adopt,” Gordon said.
“In recent years it has been about collecting the data, getting to as many circuits as possible and having a large enough data set. In the present and in the future, it is about evaluating this data.”
dr Scott Palmer, director of equine medicine for the New York State Gaming Commission, reviewed the results of a case study using StrideSAFE, a device that detects abnormalities in a horse’s gait and could potentially be used in the future to detect injuries before visible lameness develops. He sees great potential in the data from these technologies, particularly with the upcoming implementation of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA), which takes effect on July 1st.
“I think the launch of HISA will make a big difference. They already need a lot of data and it seems to me that the challenge at the moment will be prioritizing,” he said. “It will be important to have sensors on horses while they are training and while they are racing.”
In addition to acting as moderator, Montplaisir moderated a youth panel of people working in the thoroughbred industry or aspiring to a career in the industry. The group consisted of Hayley Amoss, Manager, Communications & Social Media, Breeders’ Cup; Hallie Hardy, Managing Director of Horse Country; dr Ferrin Peterson, jockey and veterinarian; Eric Resendiz, a student at Bluegrass Community & Technical College and former Amplify Horse Racing mentee; and Deja Robinson, pre-vet student.
The youth panel agreed that thoroughbred industry attendees need to take the time to educate those unfamiliar with the industry so that they develop a positive impression. They emphasized the impact of connecting with people on a personal level, either in person or through social media.
“People want an answer that shows empathy,” Amoss said.
The summit included a regulatory body moderated by dr Mary Scollay-Ward, Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of the Racing Medication & Testing Consortium. She, the former equine medical director of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, was joined by Drs. Will Farmer, equine medical director, Churchill Downs Inc.; dr Jaclyn Bradley, Prairie Meadows; and dr Lynn Hovda, Chief Vet for the Minnesota Racing Commission. The group offered their perspectives on the board veterinarian experience, what they have learned, and challenges in the role. Everyone agreed on the importance of clear communication with riders, owners and other veterinarians in all jurisdictions.
In a continuation of work in California, dr Mathieu Sprit, professor of diagnostic imaging at the University of California, Davis, presented results from using positron emission tomography (PET) to assess fetlocks. In 2019, California installed a standing PET machine that can scan all four limbs in less than 20 minutes without anesthesia. The data showed the effectiveness of this technology in monitoring horses for injuries and tracking healing.
dr Jerry HillSenior Medical Advisor to the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), outlined a BHA strategy to improve the physical and mental well-being of jockeys by increasing weight, prioritizing nutrition and redesigning areas of the circuit reserved for riders on race day.
dr Wayne McIlwraith, founding director of the Orthopedic Research Center at Colorado State University, spoke about the history of surface testing and the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory. Key factors for a safe racetrack are consistency, proper moisture levels and temperature. With HISA set to go into effect next month, circuits will need to have data logs and standardized testing methods in place.
The summit ended with presentations by Chris DobbinsSenior Vice President of InCompass, and dr Stuart Brown, Vice President of Horse Safety at Keeneland. Dobbins summarized the programs that InCompass Tracks offers to help them collect and organize data used to promote safety and welfare, including current efforts to facilitate record keeping once HISA goes into effect. Brown reviewed Keeneland’s safety protocols and how InCompass software provides Brown with important data for flagging horses at increased risk of injury.
The first Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit took place in October 2006; Subsequent summits took place in March 2008, June 2010, October 2012, July 2014, July 2015, June 2016 and June 2018. A virtual summit series took place in 2020.
Key achievements that have evolved from the previous nine Summits include the Equine Injury Database; the jockey injury database; the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory; a unified trainer test and study guide; the White Paper on Race Surfaces and the publication of training bulletins for track maintenance; the publication of stallion durability statistics; the Hoof: Inside and Out DVD, available in English and Spanish; Protocols for horses to be worked off the veterinarian’s list; recommended regulations disentitlement of horses injured during a race; and bad weather logs.
Jockey Club press release