For the third consecutive year, the number of fatal injuries sustained by horses dropped in 2021, according to The Jockey Club’s Equine Injury Database (EID). Since 2009, the first year the EID gathered information, the rate of fatal equine injuries has dropped by more than 30 points. The EID gathers information from more than 100 racetracks nationally.

The most common rate of injury was in young horses, about 3 years old. Medium distance races, between 6 and 8 furlongs, were the most common races to include injuries, clocking in at just under 1.5 out of every 1,000. Dirt tracks saw the most injuries, followed by turf in a close second and synthetic a distant third. 

The lowest recorded number of injuries were in yearlings, less than 2 years old, a sharp contrast from the 2020 results, where they were the leading injury receivers. 

“The trends we discovered in the 2020 data show evidence that interrupting a 2-year-old’s prep year may have a detrimental effect, but it does not carry over to the 3-year-old year,” says Dr. Tim Parkin, the veterinary epidemiologist who has consulted on the EID since its inception. “We will continue to investigate the data to further help prevent injuries and make the sport safer.”

There has been a statistically significant drop overall since 2009 in the risk of fatal injury across all surfaces: dirt (28.1%), turf (35.6%) and synthetic (51%). The rate on synthetic (0.73) dropped below 1.0 for the second time and is the lowest since 2009.

Also for the second time, the middle-distance races (1.46) were higher overall than the shorter (1.35) and longer (1.19) distances. The shorter and longer distance fatality rates were the lowest for the respective categories since 2009.

“We provided this database as a service to the industry, and we are pleased that it is proving to be an invaluable asset in learning more about keeping our athletes safe,” says James L. Gagliano, president and chief operating officer of The Jockey Club. “The downward trends in the EID data are very encouraging, and I’d like to thank the participating racetracks and official veterinarians for working with us and making this critical data available.”

Since March 2012, racetracks have voluntarily published their statistics from the EID on The Jockey Club website. The racetracks that publish their EID statistics reported racing fatalities per 1,000 starts of 1.15 as compared with 1.54 for those that do not publish.

This new data comes days after the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association (KTA) and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA) announced they were funding a study focusing on the fatal injury rate of Thoroughbreds. The study will investigate pre-race signifiers in Thoroughbreds, trying to determine whether they are more prone to injuries during races. In recent years, Thoroughbreds have seen a decrease in fatal injuries.

The list of racetracks participating in the EID and detailed statistics from those tracks that voluntarily publish their results can be found here.

Learn More