A technique for grading tendon injuries when they first occur aims to predict whether a horse will successfully race again after rehabilitation.

A technique that uses ultrasound to predict a racehorse’s likelihood of a return to racing after a tendon injury has been developed by researchers at the University of Nottingham, Oakham Equine Hospital and The Hong Kong Jockey Club.

The team has created a scoring system for grading tendon injuries in racehorses when they first occur and used this in a large study to determine which ultrasound features will predict whether the horse will successfully race again after rehabilitation.

Informed decisions

The system aims to significantly improve racehorse welfare in both the short-term and long-term. It will help enable vets and racehorse trainers to make early and informed decisions on a horse’s future – whether to prescribe rest and recovery before racing again, rehabilitation for another career or immediate retirement.

Rafael Alzola, equine surgery resident at the University of Nottingham School of Veterinary Medicine and Science and Oakham Veterinary Hospital, said: “Ultrasound is a quick and easy method of assessing tendon injuries, widely available across veterinary practices.

“The scoring system makes evidence-based decision making on long-term outcomes feasible and accessible to equine veterinary practitioners.”

‘Carefully considered’

Chris Riggs, head vet at The Hong Kong Jockey Club, added: “Decisions on future careers for racehorses have to be carefully considered by the horse’s owner, trainer and vet, working together.

“This study is important from a welfare perspective, as it provides the information to help them make decisions that are best for the horse’s long-term welfare, as soon as the injury occurs.”

New app

Professor of veterinary surgery at Nottingham Sarah Freeman said: “We have worked with leading ultrasound company BCF to develop an app based on the scoring system.

“This will help develop future research studies so similar work can be done for injuries in horses competing in other disciplines.”

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