New Study Will Help Determine Exercise Effects On Bone Health

Researchers at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) are investigating whether mile-long trot sets might protect foals from leg fractures later in life. Leg fractures can happen in any horse, but lower leg fractures are of more concern in horses that race or jump competitively. Most fractures occur in horses that are between two and 10 years old.

Dr. Annette McCoy, Assistant Professor of Equine Surgery at the UIUC College of Veterinary Medicine and member of the research team, notes that mild exercise early in life stimulates bone growth in horses – particularly in areas prone to fracture — though how is not completely understood. McCoy will see if parallels can be drawn from human medical studies, which have shown that kids who exercise are less prone to injury as adolescents and adults. The bone changes the human subjects experience from exercise seem to be sustained over time.

McCoy and her team will study 12 Standardbred foals housed on the university farm beginning when they are eight weeks old. The scientists will perform a baseline CT exam to measure bone density and volume on the forelegs of each foal. The foals will then be split into two groups: one group will complete an eight-week exercise plan where they trot rapidly over 1,500 yards once a day, five days per week; the second group will serve as the control and will not be exercised. In a previous study, McCoy found that foals living outside were relatively inactive nearly 85 percent of the time.

At 16 weeks old, the foal’s forelegs will be scanned again to compare bone development. At 12 months old, a final CT scan will be performed. A computer model will predict the effects of exercise interventions on bone properties.

Read more at Horse Canada.

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