Racing Victoria: Medicare for Horses program preventing catastrophic injuries in thoroughbred racehorses

Victoria’s PioneerHealth insurance for horsessaved dozens of racehorses from potentially catastrophic injuries in its first year.

More than 200 racehorses have undergone advanced diagnostic imaging since Racing Victoria introduced the program in mid-2021, in which they cover half the cost of a range of scans to encourage trainers and owners to use for early detection and injury prevention.

Thirty-five horses had potentially serious injuries, allowing their owners to put themselves forward by reducing their workload, spelling them out for a while or continuing treatment.

RV’s General Manager of Veterinary Services, Grace Forbes, said the ability to identify potential damage early contributes to “a horse having a longer racing career (and) leaving racing in a fit and healthy state. “, and could also save equine lives.

“Victoria’s fatal injury rate is among the lowest in the world, but that doesn’t stop us from trying to improve that and reduce those more serious injuries,” she said.

The program – considered a world first – saves owners and trainers up to $1,600 per scan, giving them access to computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) ) and scintigraphy (bone scan).

RV also offers grants of up to $300 for specialist vet appointments and $200 for overnight hospitalization if needed.

Dr Forbes said seeing trainers large and small in metropolitan and rural areas adopting Medicare for Horses in his first year has been “really nice”.

“The big stories are when someone says, ‘Without this grant, this kind of advanced diagnostic imaging would have been out of my reach,'” she said.

Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Mike Moroney used the diagram to order a scan for five-year-old mare Tokorangi, finding that she “showed hind limb lameness”.

“She had time in the paddock and was looked after when she got back, and she has remained very healthy since,” he said.

“Medicare for Horses provides an additional tool for trainers and veterinarians to better diagnose and help horses get back to racing.”

Dr Forbes said RV will soon expand and make the program more accessible by acquiring a second permanent CT scanner and Australia’s first positron emission tomography (PET) scanner for horses. Victoria got the country’s first permanent CT scanner in 2019.

She said Medicare for Horses builds on the $11.5 million Global Equine Limb Injury Prevention Program (ELIPP) launched in Victoria in 2018.

Sponsored by RV, the University of Melbourne and the Government of Victoria, ELIPP brings together mechanical engineers, bone biologists, veterinarians and data scientists to work towards a better understanding of equine injuries.

“If you can understand how an injury happens, you can provide guidance to coaches on what they can do to prevent it,” she said.

Since 2001, all Melbourne Cup competitors must also undergo pre-competition testing, including international horses before and after their trip to Australia.

New documentary Here for the Horses, hosted by AFL Premier Josh Gibson and starring star jockey Jamie Kah, explores the subject of horse welfare in the thoroughbred racing industry of Victoria.

It can be streamed on 7plus, will air on Channel 7 at 10 p.m. on September 22 and 10:45 a.m. on October 1, and on Racing.com Channel 78 at 8 p.m. on September 25.

samantha.landy@news.com.au