Sesamoid bone adaptation and repair in Thoroughbred race horses in training

The University of Melbourne

  • Project code: PRJ-012138

  • Project stage: Current

  • Project start date: Wednesday, December 2, 2020

  • Project completion date: Sunday, June 30, 2024

  • National Priority: HOR-Thoroughbred horse welfare, workforce safety and environmental sustainability


Limb injuries are a major cause of poor performance, suffering and death of racehorses and jockey injury. Sesamoid bone injuries are second only to cannon bone injuries as a cause of death in Victorian racing but are increasing in prevalence likely due to the greater use of synthetic racing surfaces. A critical factor in prevention of bone injury is understanding the intrinsic processes of bone adaptation and bone repair and then tailoring training and racing programs to work with the bone to optimise these processes. Our current recommendations on training for injury prevention are based on data from cannon bones and we don’t know how they affect sesamoid bone health. Using detailed electron microscopy analysis this project will quantify sesamoid bone adaptation to race training and bone turnover rates (repair) at various stages of the training program in bones from 64 horses. These data will be compared to training and racing data to understand how management affects sesamoid bone health. The data will subsequently be added to our models of training to inform future advice to trainers on injury prevention.


Thoroughbred Horses

Research Organisation

The University of Melbourne

Objective Summary

This project aims to provide a deep understanding of how the sesamoid bone accumulates and effectively repairs microdamage in response to training and racing in racehorses. The sesamoid bone is becoming the most important site of fatal injury with the increasing use of synthetic racetrack surfaces, and non-fatal sesamoid injuries also have an important negative impact on the racing industry. This project addresses AgriFutures Research Objective 6 as a deeper understanding of how bone injuries develop and how previous accumulated injury contributes to this, will reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injuries both fatal and non-fatal. The project also addresses the short-term goals of: • Improved understanding of factors influencing risk of injury or breakdown In addition it addresses Research Objective 3 because breakdown injuries of horses are the most common cause of jockey injuries, result in poor equine welfare outcomes and are a major threat to the sustainability of the industry.