Equine Injury Data Called Critical to Racing

Data on equine injuries is considered critical to the racing industry.

The Jockey Club Equine Injury Database has compiled statistics over a 12-month period for 84% of all flat racing in North America, but now comes the process of analyzing the data in an attempt to quantify the results.

Dr. Mary Scollay, equine medical director for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and veterinary consultant for the EID, said Dec. 9 stats were taken from Nov. 1, 2008, through Oct. 31, 2009. In January, local data will be available for in-house use, she said.

Scollay, who spoke during the University of Arizona Symposium on Racing & Gaming in Tucson, said the Jockey Club is now checking to make sure there aren’t errors or redundancies in the data. The information will then be given to Dr. Tim Parkin, who is on the faculty of veterinary medicine at the University of Glasgow in Scotland.

There is no timeline for release of general data to the public. It remains to be seen how it will be presented given the numerous variables involved, but Scollay said she and others understand the importance of its release.

“We understand the urgency,” Scollay said after her presentation. “If we don’t start providing it, people will see it as a black hole. The industry needs to fear lack of data more than it fears the data itself. The message to people watching us is a terrible one if we’re not able to establish accountability.”

Parkin has been involved with data collection and analysis on equine injuries in Great Britain and Hong Kong, where the information has been collected for some time. He presented analyses on tendon injuries in both countries and explained the many variables involved.

Some findings: The firmer the turf, the more likely a tendon injury. And there were more injured tendons in the summer than other seasons in England.

Scollay, in stressing the importance of accurate stats, mentioned a couple of Web sites that track racehorse injuries based on anecdotal information. She said unverified information is dangerous, and the racing industry must present factual evidence to combat misconceptions.

Patti Strand, national director and founder of the National Animal Interest Alliance, said the goal is “empowering information.” A longtime Dalmatian breeder, Strand got involved in advocacy when animal rights’ activists began attacking dog breeders.

Strand called it the “radical animal politics” of the late 1980s and early 1990s. She attended one “anti” seminar at which the breeding of dogs and cats was compared with smoking and drunk driving.

“I recognized this was a difficult issue than what we had ever seen before, and that people were highly organized,” Strand said. “If you aren’t framing the issue, someone else is. Certainly horse racing is one of the things (animal rights’ activists) are after.”

Strand said animal liberation is about politics, not animal welfare. “It’s about who decides,” she said. “We’re in a propaganda war.”