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Open AccessArticle

Characteristics of Endurance Competitions and Risk Factors for Elimination in New Zealand during Six Seasons of Competition (2010/11–2015/16)

1
School of Veterinary Science, Massey University, Private Bag 11-222, 4442 Palmerston North, New Zealand
2
School of Agriculture and Environment, Massey University, Private Bag 11-222, 4442 Palmerston North, New Zealand
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2019, 9(9), 611; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9090611
Received: 2 August 2019 / Revised: 22 August 2019 / Accepted: 23 August 2019 / Published: 27 August 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Horse as an Athlete: Sports Medicine, Rehabilitation and Wellness)
International media has recently raised awareness about horse welfare during endurance competitions. However, much of this attention is focused on international level competitions (FEI) and little is known about domestic level competitions and their risk factors for elimination. The characteristics of endurance rides and risk factors for elimination of horses due to lameness and metabolic reasons were described by assessing the records of all competitors during six competition seasons in New Zealand (2010/11–2015/16). Endurance ride entries were dominated by lower distances (40–80 km), with the number of eliminations increasing with ride distance. The competition season was structured with the longer, more competitive rides at the end of the season, allowing the shorter, earlier rides to be used as conditioning rides. Ride distance, location and progression of the endurance season were significantly associated with eliminations due to lameness or metabolic reasons and horse age was significant for metabolic reasons only. The changing profile of endurance competitors over the years showed a decreasing number of higher level riders and subsequent increase in lower level riders competing in shorter rides. This profile with low competition speeds, demonstrates better horse welfare outcomes than seen in other parts of the world.
The welfare of horses in endurance competitions has been the focus of recent media attention. Epidemiological studies have examined the sport at the international (FEI) level. However, much of the participation in the sport occurs at a national level in preparation for FEI level competition. The aims of this study were to describe participation in, and risk factors for elimination, from New Zealand endurance competitions. Data were collated from all endurance competitions (≥40 km) held in New Zealand during the 2010/11–2015/16 competition seasons. There were 6885 starts (n = 775 horses, n = 665 riders), horses had a median age of 9 years (IQR 6.2–10.0) and had a median of 3 (IQR 2–5) starts per season. Accumulated ride distance per season per horse decreased from a median of 240 km/horse (IQR 120–440) in 2010/11 to 180 km/horse (IQR 80–320) in 2015/16. Ride entries were dominated by the 40 km (n = 2834, 41%) and 80 km (n = 2517, 37%) distances. Eliminations increased with ride distance, from 7% in 40 km rides to 53% in the 160 km rides. Lameness accounted for the majority of eliminations (64%). The odds of elimination due to lameness were significantly associated with ride distance, location (North or South island) and time of year. The 11% of starters eliminated for metabolic reasons of the horse had increased odds of elimination associated with horse age, ride distance, location and time of year. View Full-Text
Keywords: horse; endurance; competition; elimination; lameness horse; endurance; competition; elimination; lameness
MDPI and ACS Style

Legg, K.A.; Weston, J.F.; Gee, E.K.; Bolwell, C.F.; Bridges, J.P.; Rogers, C.W. Characteristics of Endurance Competitions and Risk Factors for Elimination in New Zealand during Six Seasons of Competition (2010/11–2015/16). Animals 2019, 9, 611.

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