|(Courtesy of isiutm.org)|
And they don't yet include statistics on Standardbreds, the trotting and pacing harness race horses with whom I am more familiar. Standardbreds are a physically sturdier breed than their flat racing cousins and often race into their teens. Although they have their share of injuries, often complicated by the equipment they wear and the "race bikes" they pull, my impression is that fatal injuries are a bit less common than in the Thoroughbred world.
However, accidents do happen and I know of at least one Standardbred filly who survived a career but not life-ending injury because I was too newly minted as a vet to accept general wisdom and her owner, who happened to be my boss, was willing to take a big chance on saving her.
Unfortunately the program has been repeatedly gutted by political maneuvering. For example, legislators began a recent Agriculture and Equine Industry Fund Rules, (MCL 432.320, section 20), with the statement,
"(1) It is the policy of this state to encourage the breeding of horses of all breeds in this state and the ownership of such horses...to promote the positive growth and development of high quality horse racing and other equine competitions in this state as a business and entertainment activity...to establish and preserve the substantial agricultural and commercial benefits of the horse racing and breeding industry to the state of Michigan. It is the intent of the legislature to...adequately fund the agriculture and equine industry programs established by this section."
Sounds good, the details followed, then the conclusion:
"(17) Two million dollars shall be transferred from the Michigan agriculture equine industry development fund to the general fund in the fiscal year ending September 30, 2006."
Two million dollars from the equine fund, poof, gone! No explanation or accounting offered.Small wonder the Michigan harness racing industry, which employs an estimated 12,000 people, is currently struggling for survival. With "encouragement" from Lansing like that and what many consider unfair tactics by casino interests, who needs a tough economy? However, Michigan harness racing once enjoyed greater support and better days and such was the case when Verona Bea Thor began her racing career.
Bea had gone down on the track and it looked bad. It wasn’t clear if veterinary care simply wasn’t available or if no one wanted to chance doing something wrong andmaking it worse. In the end, Bea’s injured leg was wrapped as well as possible and she toughed out a very long ride home before x-rays could be taken. Our worst fears were confirmed when the films were developed and revealed a shattered pastern bone. Comminuted is the medical term, in this case it meant the bone just below her fetlock, (the long pastern), was in over a dozen pieces.
A Coffin Bone
B Navicular Bone
C Short Pastern Bone
D Long Pastern Bone
E Sesamoid Bone
F Cannon Bone