Thousands of Thoroughbred horses retire from racing each year and go on to second careers unrelated to racing. Although there are many publications regarding health concerns for Thoroughbreds while racing, evidence-based information regarding what happens after retirement from racing is scarce. Veterinarians are relegated to use anecdotal information to guide owners and potential owners. The study objective was to collect and evaluate extensive information regarding the use and perceived health of Thoroughbreds retired from racing, as well as owner satisfaction. A 31-question survey on use, health and behaviour was made available to owners of Thoroughbred horses who had retired from racing. A similar survey was available to owners of non-Thoroughbred horses for a control population. Racing data were obtained from a publicly available database for Thoroughbreds. Statistical analysis was performed to compare incidence of health and behaviour issues between Thoroughbreds and controls and between different racing experiences for Thoroughbreds. Thoroughbreds retired from racing were more likely to suffer from musculoskeletal injuries, gastrointestinal, behavioural and foot/hoof issues than controls. Age at first start, age at last start, number of starts and breaks of 6 months or more during racing career did not affect incidence of musculoskeletal disease, behavioural issues, hoof/foot issues, respiratory disease and neurologic disease. Horses with >51 lifetime starts were more likely to experience gastrointestinal disease in the first year after retirement from racing. Thoroughbreds were as likely as controls to have eventual resolution of issues present at acquisition. Veterinarians can use this information to guide pre-purchase evaluations, provide ongoing care and counsel owners/prospective owners on the possible needs of Thoroughbred horses retired from racing. Knowing the common issues faced by the population will increase the success of transition from racing by creating informed veterinarians and owner expectations.
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