How safe is horse racing?

Like any competitive activity – or, indeed, any activity – involving animals, horse racing exposes its participants, equine and human alike, to the risk of injury and, occasionally, traumatic injury and death. However, despite public perception, horses can, in fact, be surprisingly fragile animals and, as such, are susceptible to injury regardless of their line of work. Indeed, according to a study published in the Equine Veterinary Journal, which assessed the frequency of injuries in the general horse population Britain, horses are nearly five times more likely to sustain traumatic injury when turned out in a field than during ridden exercise.

Furthermore, figures from the governing body, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), suggest that, in the first decade-and-a-half of the twenty-first century, equine fatalities on British racecourses occurred at a rate of 0.2%. Based on a horses-in-training population of 14,000, which accounts for over 90,000 ruuners a year, on average, boils down to approximately 180 racecourse deaths per annum.

The level of inherent risk to participants in horse racing is very low and despite accusations of ‘ignorance, apathy and callousness’ levelled at trainers, jockeys, owners, racecourses and veterinarians, horses do receive the highest standards of care, as demanded by the governing body. The BHA fully acknowleges the risks involved, particularly in National Hunt racing and is fully committed to reducing those risks for both horses and jockeys. British racing, as a whole, has invested millions of pounds in veterinary research, via the Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB), and racecourses employ a team qualified, experienced veterinarians, doctors and paramedics to provide immediate attention in the event of any on-course incident.