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Farriers and equine veterinarians invest a great deal of time and effort into mitigating the injury risks with the equine athletes in their charge. Much of that focus falls on the ground surfaces that these performance horses compete on.
“Ground surface can, of course, affect performance in any sport, including humans,” Dr. Nathalie Crevier-Denoix told attendees at the International Society of Equine Locomotor Pathology Farrier Day at Peninsula Equine Medical Center in Menlo Park, Calif. “It also has been demonstrated that surface can be a risk factor for injury.”
The development and continued advances of synthetic surfaces have increasingly mitigated the risk. According to The Jockey Club’s 2018 Equine Injury Database report, there were 1.1 fatalities per 1,000 starts in 2017 among Thoroughbred racehorses competing on synthetic surfaces, compared with 1.74 fatalities on dirt.1 When The Jockey Club first started compiling the data in 2008 to 2009, there were 1.49 fatalities on synthetic surfaces and 2.1 on dirt.2
Although there are fewer catastrophic injuries on synthetic surfaces, the surfaces have some drawbacks and they do modify locomotion, says Crevier-Denoix, who…