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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Necropsy Report: British Horses Died of Cardiac Arrest; Signs Consistent with Electrical Shock from Leaking Cable Under Paddock

The British Horseracing Authority has provided a summary statement following the completion of necropsy studies on the bodies of two horses that died at Newbury Racecourse in Berkshire, England on Saturday. The horses collapsed and died as the jockeys were preparing to mount; two other horses fell but were able to recover.

Professor Tim Morris, Director of Equine Science and Welfare for the British Horseracing Authority, issued this prepared statement today:

“The Authority has been officially informed that there was leakage of electricity from a cable under the parade ring in the area where the incident occurred. There was immediate veterinary attention, and our enquiry on the day noted the racecourse veterinary surgeons felt a tingling sensation when examining the horses, and that the veterinary surgeons noted particular clinical signs such as muscle contractions.

“Both horses that died, Marching Song and Fenix Two, have undergone postmortem examinations which showed sudden cardiac arrest as the cause of death. Samples taken from the horses affected have shown no evidence of substances that could have caused this incident. These findings are all consistent with the cause of death being accidental electrocution and at this stage we are not investigating any other cause of death.

“I can also confirm that, contrary to speculation, no evidence of any burn marks around the mouth was found on post mortem examination, neither were such marks found by the veterinary surgeons on the horses at the start.”

The necropsies were performed by pathologists at the University of Liverpool’s School of Veterinary Science with additional services from the British Horseracing Authority contractor HFL Sport Science.

Much speculation has surrounded whether the horses' shoes were part of the formula that led to their death. Metal horseshoes are known to conduct electricity; horses are especially susceptible to electrical shock. Some people have speculated that the fact that the horses who died were shod with steel shoes, while the horses who survived were shod with aluminum, may have been a factor in the tragedy.

So far, there is no proof that that is the case.

 © Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing; Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. Please, no use without permission. You only need to ask. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page). To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site,, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found. Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to
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