Osteochondrosis, decrease long-term racing despite early surgical intervention

Osteochondrosis, a common developmental bone disorder in horses, decreases long‐term racing performance in Standardbreds, study findings show. Their study, reported in the journal Veterinary Surgery, focused on 2711 Standardbreds born at a farm in Maryland between 2009 and 2017 who went on to race.

The authors noted that fewer starts and shorter careers occurred in standardbreds with osteochondrosis, despite early surgical intervention.

Of the sample population, 382 (14%) were affected by osteochondrosis, with 829 lesions confirmed during arthroscopic surgery.

The study team looked at racing performance data and compared the results of the affected horses with the 2329 horses unaffected by the condition.

Sophie Boorman and her fellow researchers found that trotters were more likely to be affected by osteochondrosis than pacers.

Long‐term osteochondrosis‐affected horses had 8.8 fewer starts, one fewer win, and 3.8 fewer finishes in the top three compared to their unaffected counterparts.

Unaffected horses had, on average, careers that lasted about four months longer than those affected by the condition.

“Osteochondrosis had no impact on short‐term racing performance.”

Animals with lesions around the lower intermediate ridge of the tibia or lateral trochlear ridge of the talus had decreased performance compared with horses without these lesions.

The authors noted that fewer starts and shorter careers occurred in these animals despite early surgical intervention.

They said that the distribution of lesions differed between Standardbred trotters and pacers. “Location of lesions influenced their impact on performance and could affect several measures of racing performance.”

They continued: “Osteochondrosis lesions treated by arthroscopic debridement of the lesion prior to horses beginning race training or being sold as yearlings may impact the longevity of the horse, possibly by causing long‐term damage to the joint.”

Source: DOI.org and brief summary in Horsetalk.co.nz.

Demographics of 2711 registered standardbred yearlings. © 2021 The American College of Veterinary Surgeons

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