Reasons for performing study: Falls during racing present a risk of injury to both horse and jockey and a risk of fatality to horses.
Objectives: To use video recordings of races to describe the circumstances surrounding horse falls at hurdle and steeplechase fences and to identify and quantify within-race risk factors for horse falls in National Hunt racing in the UK.
Methods: A retrospective, matched, nested case-control study using video recordings of races was conducted on 6 UK racecourses. Cases and controls were matched on both race type and jump number at which the fall occurred. Conditional logistic regression analysis was used to examine the univariable and multivariable relationship between predictor variables and the risk of falling.
Results: The risk of falling was significantly associated with whip use and race progress. Horses which were being whipped and progressing through the race were at greater than 7 times the risk of falling compared to horses which were not being whipped and which had no change in position or lost position through the field.
Conclusions: This study has identified whip use and the position of the horse with respect to others in the field as potential risk factors for horse falls.
Potential relevance: If these findings are confirmed by the use of intervention trials (e.g. with whip-free or restricted whip use races), modifications could be introduced which would reduce the frequency of horse falls, leading to improved equine welfare.