Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Public Data Ferret On KOMO 1000: Washington State Race Horse Fatalities

by Matt Rosenberg June 2nd, 2010

Today during the weekly Public Data Ferret radio installment on KOMO 1000 news radio Seattle, we talked about a recent report released on race horse fatalities in Washington state. The original Ferret write up of the report is here.

Last year, there were 16 racing-related fatalities among 6,058 starts reported in 815 races on 91 race days at the state’s sole for-profit horse racing facility, Emerald Downs in Auburn, WA.

The audio of today’s radio discussion is here. The transcript follows.

Brian Calvert: “The state has just released an interesting report on racing injuries and deaths, and how to prevent them. Matt Rosenberg of communityforums.org is with us, where you can use their feature, the Public Data Ferret. And Matt, the Public Data Ferret actually came across a report that deals with horse racing injuries.”

Matt Rosenberg: “We did. Everyone loves a day at the horse races, but if you’ve ever seen a horse take a tumble, and the trailer come to haul them away, you’ve gotta wonder if the horse will survive. So, how often do racing-related horse fatalities occur in our state, and how can they be prevented? It turns out that the Washington Horse Racing Commission monitors that, and they’ve recently released their ‘Equine Safety And Health Report for 2009.’ Now, on the upside, more than 997 out of every 1,000 starts by a racehorse last year in Washington state, at our pre-eminent track, Emerald Downs in Auburn, did not result in a fatality. But on the down side, the racing-related fatality rate per 1000 starts at Emerald Downs reached its highest level yet in 2009, of 2.64.”

Nancy Barrick: “And as you look at these figures, what are you seeing as far as the main problems, the biggest risks for these horses?”

Matt Rosenberg: “Well, they say that muscolo-skeletal injuries are really the big thing. Over eight years that they’ve been keeping track of the data, there’ve been 268 race horse fatalities in Washington state, and seven out of every ten have been caused by injuries to the musculoskeletal system, which includes muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints and bones.”

Brian Calvert: “So Matt, did the report also issue some recommendations perhaps , to prevent these serious injuries or the deaths to the racehorses?”

Matt Rosenberg: “It did. In fact, the state commission’s report stresses a white paper by top U.S. horse doctors, it came out last year, and they make four points, which I’ll tell you very quickly. One, trainers should resist financial pressures to enter horses in races when they’re not physically ready. Two, preparing for their big third year, some horses are trained and raced too intensively in their second year, and that adds to health and safety risks, so they need to watch that. Three, there need to be consistent procedures for pre-race examinations, for scratching horses and for reporting injuries, especially during training. And finally, experts say that senior track management needs to know all about the issues and business practices affecting the welfare and safety of horses, they need to be really tuned in to this stuff, not just thinking about maximizing profit.”

Nancy Barrick: “And Matt, real quickly, from what you’ve seen, actually our state compares pretty well with other states when it comes to problems?”

Matt Rosenberg: “I think it does, yes. And you know, Emerald Downs is a great place. In fact, I was just out there a few weeks ago with my family, and got curious about this because I saw a horse go down and be taken away on a trailer, but it turned out that it was okay. And I also think, that the state keeps track of this data, and makes it public, is a good thing. You want more transparency across all levels of government, and this is just another example of stuff that’s out there that we may not even know about.”

Brian Calvert: “That’s right, it’s one of the documents uncovered by something called the Public Data Ferret. You can find out more information by checking out Matt Rosenberg’s work at communityforums.org.”

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