Last updated 29 June 2020

On average, the racing career of a horse will end when they are between 2-3 years old. However, a horse’s natural life span is 25-30 years.

Racing of 2 year old horses

Horses often begin their racing career at 2 years old, and begin training as young as 15 months old. At such a young age, horses’ skeletal systems are not fully matured, which puts them at a high risk of serious injury when they race42. Research has revealed shin soreness is often the cause of lameness in 2 year old racehorses43.

Racing horses at such an early age means stakeholders may see a return on their investment sooner; thus, the justification for racing horses at such a young age is purely a financial one.

Deaths on track

A report conducted by the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses found that between August 2018 and July 2019, 122 racehorses died on Australian race tracks42. The report found that the most common cause of death was catastrophic front limb injury, with 61 occurrences43.


Horses falling during a race. Source: Animal Liberation

These deaths were tracked through stewards reports in each Australian state and territory, and only includes deaths that occured on the track immediately after an incident44. This means that horses euthanised days after their injury, following further examination, were not included in this figure; thus the death toll from on track injuries is likely much higher45.

Key findings of this report include46:

  • 54 of the horses that died had been raced as 2-year olds
  • 10 horses died at 2 years old
  • Bleeds (EIPH) were the cause of death for 5 horses
  • There were 7 horses that collapsed and died on track

Racing during pregnancy

Outlined in the Australian rules of Racing, a pregnant horse may still be raced up until their 4th month of pregnancy47. It is believed by some in the racing industry that a fillie’s performance improves when she races in foal48.

Source: Racing Australia; Australian Rules of Racing.

Jumps racing

Victoria and South Australia are the only two states across Australia that are yet to ban jumps racing. Statistically, jumps racing is 20 times more dangerous for horses than flat racing is49. The number of deaths on track for jumps racing is unclear. This is largely due to a lack of transparency within the industry; the death toll for horses in trailing and trials is not publicly available50.

Horse falling during jumps race. Source: The Courier