NY Equine Medical Director Scott Palmer talks about StrideSafe technology in the Writers’ Room

As the Equine Medical Director for the New York State Gaming Commission, Dr. Scott Palmer is responsible, more than anyone else in the state, for the safety of horses. It’s a responsibility Palmer takes very seriously, and with a new wearable biometric technology called StrideSafe, Palmer and his team are doing ground-breaking work in detecting potential musculoskeletal injuries, which lead to most horse deaths, in their earliest stages . On Tuesday, Palmer joined the TDN writers’ room presented by Keeneland like Green Group Guest of the week to explain the technology and process of a program that, if adopted nationwide, could help reduce the death rate of thoroughbreds in the U.S. as close to zero as possible.

“As we know from our nearly 20 years of research in this area,

85% of horses that break down have a pre-existing musculoskeletal disease or disability, and if we can identify that disability early, we can intervene and take care of it,” Palmer said. “You’ve probably heard a lot about PET scans and CAT scans and advanced imaging. These are great diagnostic tools, but they are not great screening tools because they are not readily available in the first place. Second, they are not cheap. Third of all, they are not necessarily accurate in terms of what we are measuring. So they’re great, but we need a screening device to identify the horses that should go get that imaging because we can’t do a PET scan on every thoroughbred racehorse. It’s just not practical.

“[StrideSafe] is like a check engine light in your car. When you’re driving down the road and the check engine light comes on, it doesn’t mean you need to stop the car immediately, but it does mean you’re going to get this thing checked out because something is going on here. If you don’t, something bad will happen. So what we have here is an engine check indicator and with that kind of information it’s going to help us identify those horses that are at risk of injury because we can see the lameness before a human can see it or before the jockey can feel it.

The StrideSafe device is about the size of a cell phone and is placed in the saddle of racehorses at New York tracks when they run. It detects any deviation in any aspect of a horse’s stride and marks that horse in the traffic light colors of green, yellow and red. From their pilot study last year, Palmer and his team found that red-marked horses were much less likely to run back in the same amount of time as green or yellow horses.

“If a horse is a red flag horse, it means that that horse has something significantly unusual about its gait. And that’s significant,” Palmer said. “It’s a danger sign if we see these red signals. A horse can have a different degree of variation than normal and we don’t worry too much about yellow horses. Yellow means OK, caution light, reduce speed. Look. A red light means you really need to check this horse out because something is going on here. And perhaps not immediately noticeable to the human eye. The horses that were red [in our study], only 40% of these horses returned to training or competing within four months. Almost 80% of greens and yellows did. In other words, it means I can accurately tell a coach if you get a red flag, you have a 40% chance of returning to competition in four months. It’s a really bad business model, if nothing else, and it also means your horse is probably at risk of injury. So we’re going to record every horse in every race at Saratoga and we’re working with Joe Appelbaum and the NYTHA where any red reports I’ll let Joe know and he’ll email the trainer for that horse saying this means this doesn’t mean this is , which you need to do.

Elsewhere on the show, which is also sponsored by Coolmoreon Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association, XBTV, West Point Thoroughbreds and Legacy Bloodstock, the writers previewed the highly anticipated meeting at Saratoga, discussed the suspension of Juan Vazquez and celebrated the penny-pinching era that begins in Kentucky. Click here to watch the show; click here for the audio-only version or find it on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

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