A snapshot of horse turnover in Australian thoroughbred and standardbred racing has revealed rates approaching 40 percent.
The findings of the research, relating to the 2002-03 racing season, are published in the Australian Veterinary Journal.
The researchers from the University of Sydney and RSPCA Australia set about quantifying potential horse wastage and risk factors for the animals.
They sent questionnaires to 1258 selected thoroughbred and 981 standardbred trainers.
They received responses back from 30 percent of the thoroughbred trainers and 32 percent of the standardbred trainers.
The survey explored the role of various risk factors for wastage, including horse age, sex and number of years in training. The destination of departing horses was also examined in relation to these risk factors.
Total horse exit rates for the 2002–03 official race year were 39.7 percent for thoroughbreds and and 38.7 percent for standardbreds.
Of these exiting animals, the data showed that 36.5% of departing thoroughbreds did so because of poor performance or being slow, as did 35.2% of standardbreds. Illness or injury accounted for the exit of 31.0% of departing throughbreds and 27.1% of departing standardbreds.
Roughly one in 10 of the horses leaving racing – 9.4% of thoroughbreds and 10.1% of standardbreds – did so for breeding purposes.
Unsuitable temperament or behaviour were responsible for 6.4% of thoroughbred departures and 6.4% of standardbred departures. The trainers put 16.8% percent of thoroughbred departures and 21.2% of standardbred departures under the “other” category.
The researchers concluded that improved behaviour training and early identification of the causes of poor performance could assist in reducing wastage.
Thomson, P., Hayek, A., Jones, B., Evans, D. and McGreevy, P. (2014), Number, causes and destinations of horses leaving the Australian Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing industries. Australian Veterinary Journal. doi: 10.1111/avj.12204
The abstract can be read here.