The Normandy field study on juvenile osteochondral conditions: Conclusions regarding the influence of genetics, environmental conditions and management, and the effect on performance

P. René van Weeren, Jean-Marie Denoix
July 2013
The Veterinary Journal

Juvenile osteochondral conditions (JOCC) have a major impact on the equine industry and include many musculoskeletal disorders of the young horse, of which osteochondrosis (OC) is the most prominent. The Breeding, Osteochondral Status and Athletic Career (BOSAC) project is the first large, comprehensive, longitudinal field study on the subject conducted in three breeds of performance horses (Thoroughbreds, Standardbred Trotters and Warmbloods) that were monitored in their natural environment where they were reared under common field conditions.

The BOSAC study used a radiographic protocol designed for field use coupled to an internally validated severity scoring system, providing weighted radiographic findings as the primary outcome measure. The natural courses of various JOCC appear to differ, according to the joint and condition involved. Genetically, there were also large differences with moderate heritabilities in the tarsocrural and metacarpophalangeal/metatarsophalangeal joints and virtually no heritability for femoropatellar OC. There was a strong influence of exercise history (as an environmental condition) on the manifestation and natural course of JOCC. In the younger age class (<6 months) lack of exercise or irregular exercise had a negative effect, as had exposure to excessive exercise. In the yearling category, (exercise-associated) intrinsic trauma seemed to be the most important negative factor. In terms of later function, the association of a poor radiographic score with poorer performance in racing Trotters could be demonstrated.