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Necropsy Reports Bring Horse Mortality Rate Down Drastically
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Necropsy Reports Bring Horse Mortality Rate Down Drastically

The death of a beloved animal is always heartbreaking. It is especially horrendous to see your horse break down and pass over to the other side while racing or while routine training. Horse deaths, while not regular, occurred at a rate which was alarming. But in recent times the mortality rate has been coming down ever since 2009. This is a courtesy of the initiative taken by various people to bring mortality rates down. A break down of the different stages are given below.


When a horse dies, the body is sent for necropsy (Animal autopsy) to collect information about possible fatal injuries or other causes of death. During the examination physical tests of the bones and soft tissues are thoroughly done. Histology and toxicology tests are also performed along with radiography of fractures. The veterinarian remains objective and ensures to do a thorough job. They tend not to make speculations and rarely attempt to recreate the scene of the breakdown. They can make vague interpretations but always avoid making statements which are definitive.


The data assembled by the veterinarians is then sent to a commission which conducts a mortality review. Usually, most tracks conduct an official review over the death of a horse on the race track. In cities like Kentucky, the commission meets with the trainers to go over the necropsy report, workout report, race records, and other reports. The review is not disciplinary but is done with a purpose to learn. Finger pointing does not happen and experts sit together and discuss how to prevent future fatalities and improve the life expectancy of horses. From this review, trainers learn more as their knowledge gets expanded. They then implement improved training regimes which are aimed to prolong the horse’s life.


The gathering of such data helps in an immense way. It gives helpful data which gives tracks and organizations, information to work with. It helps in the identification of risk factors which could be cause for fatal injuries. It has also been vital in improving track policies. For example, University of California’s horse program has restricted the height of the toe grabs to 2 millimeters as long toe grabs have been identified as a cause of injuries.

Such steps have brought the mortality rate down from 2.00 per 1000 deaths to 1.54 per 1000 deaths in horses. The learning process and implementation of the knowledge gained from such reviews of various reports have increased the life expectancy of many horses and also improved their health by a great deal.


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  1. jst4horses
    This is a good article for all horse owners to consider. If your veterinarian does even a smaller level of necropsy, it may help owners to be better horse health keepers. In our equine therapy programs many veterinarians have told us that they appreciate that we do not have the large number of constant injuries and heat related deaths that they often see in other stables. Owners are often the sole cause of injuries such as overwork caused leg or breathing injuries. I have often stopped a rider and told them a bit of advice, some have rewarded me with a single finger salute, or a rant. One woman had given her very young child a horse, saying the child was an amazing horsewoman, the child was a child. The last time I saw that child, she was lying in the road, with paramedics trying to save her life. The horse had seen an open gate at a public arena, and bolted out and up a steep hill at full gallop, the child was thrown and did not have a helmet on hitting pavement at that speed. The horse of course was NOT given proper care for galloping on pavement, and just shoved into a stall by whomever was at the stall, the mother going to the hospital with her child........the horse, left to deal with not being cooled, legs not taken care of, and what a surprise when it was deathly ill. I never heard if they managed to save it. Another cause of colic that people do not notice is the automatic watering systems heat up so hot the horse can not get a drink in the hottest weather...........automatic watering systems I have found doing night check at huge stables do not work, that leaves horses without water for the whole night, and IF anyone notices, given a drink from a bucket and sent out to work, often no one notices and the horse is sent out to work, on track or in arena without water for many hours. Many get sick and some die. I think it is great to have an article to help owners realize that necropsy is a tool for owners to learn to keep their horses from dying.

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