Long-term racing performance of Standardbreds affected by osteochondrosis – study

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

Osteochondrosis, a common developmental bone disorder in horses, decreases long‐term racing performance in Standardbreds, study findings show.

Researchers with Auburn University in Alabama and the University of Pennsylvania see out to determine how clinical osteochondrosis influences the short‐term and long‐term racing performance, and career longevity of Standardbreds.

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.

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.

Researchers said that the distribution of lesions differed between Standardbred trotters and pacers.
Researchers said that the distribution of lesions differed between Standardbred trotters and pacers. Photo by sniggie

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.”

The authors thanked the United States Trotting Association for providing the racing records for the animals evaluated in the study.

The study team comprised Sophie Boorman and Erik Hofmeister, with the College of Veterinary Medicine at Auburn University; and Michael Ross, Sarah Ralston, Garrett Bell, Sarah Mackie and Kyla Ortved, with the New Bolton Center, part of the University of Pennsylvania.

Influence of osteochondrosis on the longevity and racing performance of standardbred trotters and pacers
Sophie Boorman, Erik H. Hofmeister, Michael W. Ross, Sarah Ralston, Garrett Bell, Sarah Mackie and Kyla Ortved.
Veterinary Surgery, 18 January 2021, https://doi.org/10.1111/vsu.13568

The free-access article can be read here

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