Joint surface collapse in horses is a degenerative condition that can result from stress fractures (also called bone fatigue) from repeated loading of the legs. While many trainers rest horses suffering from bone fatigue, a complete stop of exercise may not be the answer—in fact, it can even exacerbate the chance of catastrophic breakdown, reports HorseTalk.
Researchers at the University of Melbourne studied joint surface collapse in horses with palmar osteochondral disease, which affects the lower leg bones. The study examined whether bone resorption could be correlated with reduced physical activity and contributed to surface collapse in horses affected with the disease, they reported in the Equine Veterinary Journal.
The team used metacarpal bones from 36 deceased Thoroughbred racehorses, 29 of which were in training at the time of their death. Their bones were examined via CT scanner and electron microscope to see if joint surfaces had collapsed, and whether bone surfaces had eroded or become porous.
Horses that were resting had higher porosity and surface erosion of the bone; in some resting horses, there was an apparent loss of support for the calcified cartilage layer. The researchers noted that collapse of joint surfaces was common in cases of palmar osteochondral disease and likely resulted from stress fractures, which have been shown to contribute to fatality risk.
This study may support assertions from practicing veterinary surgeons that a limited workload, as opposed to complete rest, may be the better option when managing a horse with stress fractures.
Read more at HorseTalk.
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