Researchers in Belgium have found that the amount of time a horse stays in a stall and diet they are fed can lead to common bone developmental issues later in life.
The study, conducted by a team based at the University of Liege and the Equine Research and Development Center of Mont-le-Soie, was aimed at learning more about osteochondrosis dissecans, which is a developmental disease that affects the bone in joints and associated cartilage. Such issues can seem minor in young horses, but can lead to larger problems as the horse matures, resulting in the possibility of bone fragments within joints, fissures or bone cysts in the growth cartilage, all of which can cause pain and lameness.
The study, carried out by Luis Mendoza, Jean-Philippe Lejeune, Isabelle Caudron, Johann Detilleux, Charlotte Sandersen, Brigitte Deliège and Didier Serteyn chronicled the nutrition programs, housing (which included specified amounts of time in a stall versus being turned out) and development of 204 foals from ages 6 months to 18 months. Radiographs were taken of each foal at the beginning and end of the 12 month time period and questionnaires were used to learn more about how the horses were fed and housed to investigate what affect different regimens had on their bone development.
Results of the study concluded that of the 204 foals, 132 showed no sign of lesions on both radiographic examinations. Sixteen of the horses were free of lesions in the initial radiographs, but showed evidence of lesions in the radiographs at 18 months. Nine foals that showed lesions in their initial radiographs showed those lesions had healed by the time radiographs were taken at 18 months.
“This study supports the theory that management factors such as feeding or housing may influence the evolution of the osteochondrosis disease,” said the group in their sttudy, which was published in the veterinary medical journal Preventative Veterinary Medicine.
The team concluded that its findings supported other research, as well as general belief among horsemen, that horses fed high-energy concentrate had a higher propensity for developing osteochondrosis, while horses eating forage only, such as hay, grass or other roughage, have fewer incidence of bone disease.
Read more at HorseTalk NZ.
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