British researchers investigating risk factors and the reasons for the elimination of horses from endurance races have revealed the first evidence that faster speeds decrease the likelihood of completion.
However, their research was unable to detect an association between speed and specific reasons for elimination.
Annamaria Nagy and colleagues at the Centre for Equine Studies, part of the Animal Health Trust, have been following several lines of research into endurance horse eliminations, with their findings published in the Equine Veterinary Journal.
Around 40-45 percent of horses are eliminated from international endurance rides globally for various reasons, the researchers said.
One strand of the research involved analysis of FEI endurance rides involving 30,741 horse starts, in a bid to identify risk factors for elimination for lameness, elimination for metabolic reasons, and the likelihood of completion.
It was, they said, the first study to obtain data from endurance competitors on the issues.
The percentage of eliminated horses and winning speed at all endurance rides worldwide of distances from 100km to 160km did not increase between 2008 and 2011 when all countries were assessed.
Eliminations due to both lameness and metabolic reasons were associated with the geographical region where the ride was held, they found.
The study showed the first evidence of faster horse speeds increasing the likelihood of elimination, but could not detect an association between speed and specific reasons for elimination.
Less frequent racing schedules (more than 90 days since the last competition) were associated with a decreased risk of elimination for lameness.
Information was also obtained from riders. It revealed preliminary evidence of an association between riders’ predictions and the outcome of the ride. Riders aiming to achieve the best possible results or qualification were less likely to complete the ride than riders aiming for training.
Riders who judged the course afterwards as more difficult than they expected were also less likely to complete.
In related research, Nagy and her colleagues collected venue, horse and rider-related data from the FEI website and assessed 1435 horse starts over distances of 80-160 kilometres. Data on weather conditions and terrain were collected at the venue.
Their findings revealed that the venue was significantly associated with elimination for lameness.
The horse’s previous experience at a greater distance than the current ride, and a break of more than 90 days since the last FEI ride, significantly reduced the risk of elimination for lameness, they found.
The venue, increasing entry numbers and deep sand or soil on the track significantly increased the risk of elimination for metabolic reasons.
Reducing the frequency of racing may contribute to decreased risk of elimination for lameness, the researchers concluded.
“Competing in deep sand or soil may contribute to exhaustion leading to elimination for metabolic reasons.
“Eliminations are likely to be the end result of a complex process, and not every aspect was or can be measured.”
They said further research with a larger number of horse starts and assessing variables that could not be measured in the current study may identify additional risk factors that can be modified.
Nagy, A., Dyson, S. and Murray, J. (2012) A veterinary review of endurance riding as an international competitive sport. Vet J. 194, 288-293.
Nagy, A., Murray, J. and Dyson, S. (2013) Descriptive epidemiology and risk factors for eliminations from Fédération Equestre International endurance rides due to lameness and metabolic reasons (2008-2011). Equine vet. J. Published online. DOI: 10.1111/evj.12069
A Nagy, J K Murray, S J Dyson
Horse, rider, venue and environment-related risk factors for eliminations from Fédération Equestre Internationale endurance rides due to lameness and metabolic reasons.
Equine Veterinary Journal (Impact Factor: 2.29). 08/2013; DOI:10.1111/evj.12170