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Despite significant improvements in human sporting achievements, the modern sport horse has only shown marginal performance improvements over the last century
The greatest improvement in horseracing times occurred more than 100 years ago with only a 4% improvement in the last 50 years compared with a 12-13% improvement in winning times by man (Gardner, 2006). Despite this, injury rates in ridden horses continue to remain high with 33% of dressage horses being reported lame within a single year (Murray et al., 2010), a 32% risk of injury from falling in eventing (Murray et al., 2005) and National Hunt racing carrying a 6.5% risk of fatality (Pinchbeck et al., 2004).
The anatomical region most susceptible to injury is the limbs, particularly the distal region, with 80% of musculoskeletal injuries in racing involving the forelimb, and 46% of those involving the suspensory apparatus (Williams et al., 2001). Such injury risks pose significant health and welfare concerns to the industry, especially with our social license to operate increasingly in question.