Equine doctor discusses deaths during Keeneland's Fall Meet

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) – A third horse has been put down at Keeneland, just four days into this year's Fall Meet.

"Triggerman" suffered a catastrophic injury on Wednesday. The jockey, Adam Beshizza, was thrown off the thoroughbred and injured in the incident. He was rushed to UK Hospital but is expected to be okay.

Surgeons who work day in and day out with horses at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital understand that injuries are on everyone's mind right now in light of the most recent equine casualty.

“The injury rate is somewhere around 1.8 per thousand horses and it wrenches everybody’s heart when one happens,” says Dr. Larry Bramlage.

Dr. Bramlage explains that the injury rate has actually been declining over the last ten years. He knows, however, the concern a single death brings.

Oftentimes, unfortunately, injuries like the three at Keeneland result in the horse being euthanized. “Triggerman,” “Stella D'Oro,” and “Fast Dreamer” all suffered an injury to one of their front limbs during this Fall Meet.

“Horses are a prisoner of their own anatomy. They weigh 10 times your weight - maybe 7 or 8 mine - and they can run twice as fast as a human. Their legs are very fine and that’s why they are so good at what they do.”

Dr. Bramlage says a majority of these catastrophic leg injuries happen in the fetlock joint. "That joint makes a horse a horse. That is one of the reasons they can run so fast. They don't have any muscle there and limited blood supply. That joint acts like a spring when they are racing and that is part of what makes them so fast, but that bone is very narrow."

Significant injuries to those very thin legs are often unable to be treated because while human athletes can be put on bed rest in order to heal, that can't be done with a horse.

As injuries are on everyone's mind, Doctor Bramlage says more people than ever are paying close attention to racing surfaces and the overall health of racehorses. Keeneland is showing that by appointing an Equine Safety Director and Director of Racing Surfaces just ahead of the Fall Meet.

Bob Elliston, Keeneland's Vice President of Racing and Sales says safety is a top priority and has been for many years at the track. "No one takes this harder than me and my colleagues here at Keeneland. We take it very seriously and we have an ache in our heart when that happens."