This study recorded the response to training of the diaphysis of the proximal phalangeal bone and the third metacarpal bone (Mc3) and the Mc3 proximal metaphysis. Nineteen 2- and 3-year old horses in training were exposed either to spontaneous exercise at pasture (PASTEX group) or additional imposed exercise (CONDEX group) from a very young age. Quantitative computed tomography scans were analysed for bone mineral content, size, bone mineral density, periosteal and endosteal circumference, cortical thickness and an estimate of bone strength.
The bones of the CONDEX horses were bigger and stronger than those of the PASTEX horses at the start of the observation period, and these differences were maintained after adjusting for training workload. Increase in the bone strength index was through size and not density increase. Density increased during training and decreased during paddock rest between the two training campaigns, during which time bone strength continued to increase because of the slow growth that was still occurring. The greatest variance in the response to the training exercise of diaphyseal bone mineral content, bone strength index or cortical thickness was associated with the cumulative workload index at the gallop, although statistically significant unexplained variances remained.
There were no differences in bone response to training, with the exception of the endosteal circumference at 55% of the Mc3 length from the carpometacarpal joint space between CONDEX and PASTEX, which indicated that young horses may be able to be exercised slightly more vigorously than currently accepted.