NTRA To Give $100,000 to University of Kentucky Equine Surfaces & Safety Research Lab

The funds will be used to create a physical space on the University of Kentucky campus that will house the Equine Surfaces and Safety Research Laboratory.


The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) announced on April 17 that it is giving $100,000 to the University of Kentucky’s (UK) new Equine Surfaces and Safety Research Laboratory.

“NTRA Charities is excited to support UK’s new Equine Surfaces and Safety Research Laboratory, which, through its important work will absolutely lead to a safer racing environment for our human and equine athletes,” said NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop. “This presents a unique opportunity to achieve significant advancements in the science of creating and maintaining safer racetrack surfaces. This lab will also help us train the next generation of track maintenance personnel to analyze the wealth of data that’ll soon be available to keep racing surfaces as safe as possible,” added Waldrop. Per Steve Koch, NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance executive director, “the NTRA has reviewed variations on this proposal for nearly two years and we’re pleased to see it go forward.”

Under the direction of UK Ag Equine Programs director Mick Peterson, who joined the staff in 2016 and works to improve horse and rider safety in racing and sport horse endeavors, the Racing Surfaces Testing Lab (RTSL) has proven effective at reinforcing welfare and safety through its central testing lab for dirt, turf, and synthetic racing materials. To date, testing has included more than 70 different racing and training tracks worldwide. Equipment development from the lab includes riding crop design assessment, performance tests of starting gates and rail padding, and testing maintenance equipment. The RTSL materials lab also inspired FEI efforts in arena surfaces testing, including large-scale sample analysis in Sweden.

Funds will be used to renovate existing space in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment to create the NTRA Charities Equine Surfaces and Safety Laboratory. The expanded lab will provide space for students to learn from and participate in innovative research and for important entities within the industry, such as track superintendents, to advance their knowledge and skills in a hands‐on setting. The lab will also work to solve problems associated with surface and safety research. Projects include:

  • The development of real-time moisture sensors for racing surfaces.
  • Shoeing effects on swing phase joint loading.
  • Real-time sensing of gait parameters.
  • Subsurface design of racetracks.
  • The effect of harrowing on the formation of the racetrack hardpan.
  • New tools for the measurement of cushion depth on dirt racetracks and moisture and penetration resistance on turf tracks.

The lab also has potential to offer new industry development areas, such as:

  • The effect of a harrowed racing surface on optimal helmet design.
  • The potential for new horseshoe designs to reduce loading rate for arteriosclerosis [clogging of the arteries] risk reduction.
  • The development of new sensors for fan engagement and handicapping data using ‘internet of things’ technologies.

According to Peterson, “This laboratory will allow us to do racetrack surfaces testing on a larger scale to permit us to replicate surface properties using maintenance equipment on the surfaces, which have been observed on racetracks but are not well understood. Understanding racetrack maintenance is key to providing a consistent racing surface regardless of the weather.”

Modified from a press release.

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