Healthcare Technology Featured Article

October 05, 2023

How GPS Technology Is Being Introduced In Churchill Downs To Prevent Horse Casualties

Even though horse racing is one of the oldest sports in the world that is closely tied to tradition, this doesn’t stop the sport from evolving and introducing new technologies. Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen huge improvements in terms of tech, especially on big races like the Kentucky Derby.

However, horse racing is facing a real problem, that might define the future of the sport. We are talking about horse deaths.

The Jockey Club, which is a non-profit organization reported a death rate of 1.25 per 1,000 starts, which is approximately 330 racing deaths. On top of that, between 700 and 800 racehorses are injured every year according to PETA.

This is a serious problem for horse racing as it slowly earns the badge of being an unethical sport, which can ruin its reputation forever.

However, horse racing organizations are working on developing new technologies that will prevent horse casualties, and now it's being introduced in Churchill Downs.

How it All Started?

In a significant stride towards enhancing equine safety, the Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council (KEDRC) awarded a grant to StrideSAFE.

This momentous development led to a two-day research meeting held at the company's headquarters in Midway, Kentucky. Since the Breeders Cup is coming next November, it is a good time to check how this technology will be applied:

The gathering featured prominent figures in the field, including lead investigators Dr. Warwick Bayly and Dr. Denise McSweeney, co-investigator and StrideSAFE CEO Dr. David Lambert, and esteemed team consultants Dr. Mikael Holmstrom, Dr. Kevin Donohue, Dr. Sue Stover, Dr. Laura Kennedy, along with Greg Pachman, representing StrideSAFE's management.

The research team embarked on a comprehensive review of not-so-recent equine fatalities at Churchill Downs, revealing that out of the 12 cases, eight were attributed to race-day musculoskeletal events. Notably, all eight horses were equipped with StrideSAFE technology, and seven of these cases displayed abnormal sensor readings immediately upon leaving the starting gate.

Dr. Lambert underscores the potential of this breakthrough, stating that had these sensors been in place during prior races, they could have detected issues that horses were experiencing weeks or even months before they became apparent to the human eye. This promising outcome fuels optimism that consistent utilization of StrideSAFE technology can proactively identify equine health concerns well in advance.

How the StrideSafe Technology Works?

A cutting-edge technology known as StrideSafe has made its debut this spring, aimed at identifying horses at risk of suffering catastrophic breakdowns.

Trainer Dale Romans, a proponent of StrideSafe's potential, is actively involved in the research. He utilizes the device to monitor his horses during their morning workouts at Churchill Downs. StrideSafe's CEO, David Lambert, elaborates on the technology—it's a sensor equipped with GPS functionality that analyzes a horse's movements at high speeds.

This innovative sensor provides critical insights into a horse's motion patterns. Any deviations from the norm can serve as an early warning sign of potential trouble. Romans attests to the effectiveness of StrideSafe, recalling an incident when the technology detected an issue with one of his horses.

Thanks to the sensor's data, Romans identified a looming fracture in the horse's left leg, averting a catastrophic injury. As a result, he made the decision to give the horse much-needed rest and withdrew him from training.

Since the commencement of the 2023 Spring Meet, StrideSafe sensors have been deployed on every horse participating in races at Churchill Downs, including the prestigious Kentucky Derby. These sensors are discreetly placed on the rear end of each horse, just below the saddle.

Currently, StrideSafe is in use on approximately 30 horses per week during their morning training sessions at the track. The ultimate objective is to implement this technology across the board, monitoring every horse in training, and substantially reducing the incidence of catastrophic injuries during races.

The StrideSafe GPS technology has the potential to become a significant tool in safeguarding equine athletes and making the sport safer for both horses and athletes. The best thing is that the sensor is quite accurate and good at predicting injuries in horses.

This is the only way for horse racing to survive as a sport, and we should see this technology in other races, not just Churchill Downs.

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