A high prevalence of radiographic abnormalities exist in the joints of yearling and 2-year-old Quarter Horses, but the clinical significance of these changes is not yet known, according to Erin K. Contino, MS, of the Gail Holmes Equine Orthopaedic Research Center at Colorado State University. Contino presented on the topic at the American Association of Equine Practitioners' 55th Annual Convention, held Dec. 5-9 in Las Vegas, Nev.

While equine researchers have completed studies on radiographic changes in Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds, no one has reported on this subject in Quarter Horses. As such, Contino and colleagues reviewed radiographs from 458 yearling and 2-year-old Quarter Horses intended for the discipline of cutting.

The researchers evaluated the carpi (knees), fetlocks, tarsi (hocks), and stifles, and then they categorized lesions based on type and location.

Key findings of this study were:

  • 408/458 (89.1%) of Quarter Horses had abnormal radiographs;
  • The tarsus and stifle joints were most commonly radiographed;
  • 304/438 (69.4%) horses had radiographic abnormalities of the tarsus and 202/454 (44.5%) horses had radiographic abnormalities of the stifle (primarily the medial femoral condyle); and
  • The fetlocks (43.7% of hind and 36.3% of fore) and carpus (7.9%) were less commonly radiographically abnormal.

"While radiographic abnormalities were frequently identified, particularly on stifle and tarsal films, work is ongoing to determine the clinical significance of these radiographic changes," relayed Contino.

"In the meantime, this study serves to establish a baseline for what can be expected when evaluating pre-sale radiographs of young Quarter Horses," she said.

About the Author

Stacey Oke, DVM, MSc

Stacey Oke, MSc, DVM, is a practicing veterinarian and freelance medical writer and editor. She is interested in both large and small animals, as well as complementary and alternative medicine. Since 2005, she's worked as a research consultant for nutritional supplement companies, assisted physicians and veterinarians in publishing research articles and textbooks, and written for a number of educational magazines and websites.

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