This 12 months, horse racing made countrywide news for the horrific and mysterious deaths of as a minimum of 23 horses in 3 months at Santa Anita Park in California. What nearly nobody noticed turned into that final yr Kentucky had a similar hassle: Horse fatalities at kingdom tracks almost doubled in 2018.
At the February meeting of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, equine clinical director Dr Mary Scollay mentioned the hassle: Fatalities went from 20 in 2017 to 36 in 2018, an eighty per cent increase. The fee of fatalities rose as accurately, from 1.33 in keeping with 1,000 starts offevolved to 2.39, she stated. Kentucky hasn’t stated fatality fees like that in the thirteen years that the country has tracked them, in line with racing commission records.
“It’s unparalleled,” she stated.
In truth, the problem in Kentucky may be a ways worse: Unlike Santa Anita’s numbers, Kentucky’s do now not consist of horse fatalities all through or due to training due to the fact the Kentucky racing fee simplest counts racing fatalities. Even so, the exchange turned into dramatic: The deaths were throughout all Kentucky tracks, as have been the will increase, according to Scollay.
She has no clear solution as to why there had been extra horse deaths; however, she noted one shift: The horses that died were younger. Data on horse fatalities, in Kentucky and across the you. S. A ., for years has hooked up the riskiest age for a racehorse as 3 to four years vintage. But closing year’s Kentucky deaths have been much more likely to be 2- and three-year-vintage horses, Scollay said in an interview.
“It made me wonder if something had modified within the horse populace,” Scollay said. “Because I knew we hadn’t changed our pre-race vet tests or protocols,” which are designed to seize horses that shouldn’t be racing earlier than they go out to the starting gate.
Somehow, those horses had been getting via.
A ticking time bomb
Scollay, like many others in horse racing, wonders if an enormously new class of medicine will be masking vulnerability in bones (and the deaths in Kentucky and California are nearly all musculoskeletal) that is contributing to the wave of deaths. Bisphosphonates are osteoporosis medicines authorised approximately five years ago to be used in horses 4 or older to deal with a bone disease called navicular. The paintings now not through constructing new bone but by way of killing off the cells, called osteoclasts, that clear away bone with microdamage. In human beings with critical problems including osteoporosis, this helps as it prevents the hollowing of bones. But vets can prescribe it legally for different bone troubles in more youthful horses, consisting of soreness.
Concerns about the usage of the drugs in racing were constructing for years.
Ed Martin, president and CEO of the Association of Racing Commissioners International, stated that his business enterprise, which lobbies for regulatory change, known as for the law of breeding and income more significant than 12 months in the past, expressly with worries about bisphosphonates.” “And it was simplest until pretty currently that people started to move on that,” Martin stated. “We’re very concerned approximately whether or not they’re safe to take delivery of to young horses … We’re worried approximately the technology that shows while it is given to young mammals it can cause stress fractures. We don’t have equine-particular research … however other studies show its connection to pressure fractures and the hyperlink to catastrophic harm.”
Last April, vets presented concerns to the ARCI annual assembly approximately good sized off-label use of these tablets in racehorses and younger horses. Dr Sue Stover of the University of California-Davis veterinary university stated that bisphosphonates were seemed as “a silver bullet” for myriad bone troubles. Instead, that might have created what has been referred to as a ticking time bomb in a few racehorses. The capsules are suspected of building bones that appearance sound on X-rays but aren’t capable of normal healing.
Renowned equine orthopaedic doctor Dr Larry Bramlage of Rood & Riddle stated that when the medication, bought beneath the name Children and Osphos, first became available; he was concerned they might create the capacity for catastrophic breakdowns. Instead, what he commenced to peer changed into horses taking months longer to heal from routine accidents. “I have no doubt this is the case,” Bramlage said a remaining week.