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Bones and breeding

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  • Bones and breeding

    Was pondering this as yet another eventing horse had to be put down for breaking a bone on landing from a jump during XC.

    I haven't yet been able to run down the horse's breeding, but he carries the Zangersheide suffix and is apparently Irish bred. The name was apparently changed when he was imported.

    We all know Arabians have extremely strong bones as a rule; TBs who were originally bred for stamina and have been doing jumps racing since the late 1700's probably have good bone strength after they mature. I'd guess that Trakehners who were cavalry mounts with high Arab and high TB percentages in their founders and sires probably have strong bones built in from the getgo.

    But what about WBs? I know they have TB and Arab, but in fairly low percentages these days. I'm just wondering about bone strength in eventing WBs.
    "I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay."
    Thread killer Extraordinaire

  • #2
    The wb breeders have tried with a bit of success for years to promote the idea that the size of the bone and amount of bone translates into strength and soundness. However, the size of the bone has zero to do with that -- the integrity of the bone and the density, hardness is the key. The bone should be ample to support the mass otherwise it is out of proportion. Thus a lighter framed horse with "good" bone -- i.e. lighter/smaller BUT denser is much better than a heavier, larger bone that is soft and porous. The only way to measure that is by ultrasound. Thoroughbreds come from ancestors that have raced and done sport type activities for over a century and the activities, i.e. the speed work will improve the bone and breeding them over the years continues to promote that. Not all Thoroughbreds are created equal, but I would not discount the hardiness of their bone in comparison to a larger bone just because of the size. Doesn't translate. When I read a comment about "good" bone meaning a heavy bone, it is totally ridiculous IMO.
    PennyG

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    • #3
      I wonder how much enviroment plays in developing bone? Are the ones left to roam out in pasture developing stronger bones than those with only an hour of turnout? And is there a certain stage in development where the bone will be as dense as it can be with no further changes to be seen?
      Cornerstone Equestrian
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      • Original Poster

        #4
        In racing TBs, early speed work leads to microfractures in very young horses that lead to bone remodeling and increased density. Bucked shins were a part of that process, IIRC.

        This was brought on in part by a quote on Betel xx's webpage from a European (Swedish?) expert on adding TB for "increased durability". If that quote is correct, there must be a perceived problem, whether it is justified or not.
        "I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay."
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        • #5
          Is there any way to promote or induce increased bone density in young horses without utilizing the speed work that race-training horses do?

          I know I read an article by Dr. Deb Bennett that said the girth growth(not length) of the cannon bones does not end until a horse is about 5 years old. Could this also translate into density as well, not just size? If not, does anyone know at about what age you can't help increase bone density?

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          • #6
            Originally posted by TKR View Post
            The wb breeders have tried with a bit of success for years to promote the idea that the size of the bone and amount of bone translates into strength and soundness. However, the size of the bone has zero to do with that -- the integrity of the bone and the density, hardness is the key. The bone should be ample to support the mass otherwise it is out of proportion. Thus a lighter framed horse with "good" bone -- i.e. lighter/smaller BUT denser is much better than a heavier, larger bone that is soft and porous. The only way to measure that is by ultrasound. Thoroughbreds come from ancestors that have raced and done sport type activities for over a century and the activities, i.e. the speed work will improve the bone and breeding them over the years continues to promote that. Not all Thoroughbreds are created equal, but I would not discount the hardiness of their bone in comparison to a larger bone just because of the size. Doesn't translate. When I read a comment about "good" bone meaning a heavy bone, it is totally ridiculous IMO.
            PennyG
            ^^^ this. (I love you Penny )

            I see so many references on this forum to "cannon bone circumference" as if that is directly related to bone strength that it makes me wonder where we're getting our information (or mis-information as the case may be)
            Last edited by tuckawayfarm; Feb. 14, 2012, 04:42 PM. Reason: can't spell....

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            • #7
              Originally posted by vineyridge View Post
              In racing TBs, early speed work leads to microfractures in very young horses that lead to bone remodeling and increased density. Bucked shins were a part of that process, IIRC.

              This was brought on in part by a quote on Betel xx's webpage from a European (Swedish?) expert on adding TB for "increased durability". If that quote is correct, there must be a perceived problem, whether it is justified or not.
              Bucked shins mean you crossed the line. You want to get as close to the line without crossing over as possible. I think walking and trotting one hardpack or asphalt can help without access to a race track.
              McDowell Racing Stables

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              • #8
                I read an article recently about this and in a very much nutshell-way, you needed to apply a considerable amount of stress to young bones to trigger the remodelling process. Ie. galopping two year-olds on the track.

                Bucked shin were used to be perceived as something that had to be done in order to gain soundness, but that particular article said that it was possible to obtain some bone remodelling without getting bucked shins... It was all a matter of balance.

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                • #9
                  That is the protocol I followed for a decade with my young horses. I had two cases of bucked shins over that period of time. Neither horse had leg problems after healing up from the bucked shins.
                  McDowell Racing Stables

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                  • #10
                    Work in general promotes increased bone density. While the changes can be seen faster and to a greater degree in a young horse, a mature horse can undergo the same changes.

                    Also, for clarification, microfractures and stress fractures are different. Microfractures are "good" in terms of facilitating bone remodeling. But, stress fractures most often occur where there were previously microfractures. It is a fine line between a fit horse and a broken horse. Similar principles hold true for muscles and, to a much lesser degree, tendons and ligaments.

                    And this is why appropriate, weekly conditioning schedules are so important. The horse needs time to recover from high intensity days (sprints, intervals, hills, jumping, whatever) with only light work afterwards to avoid pushing micro-injuries over the edge to clinical injuries.
                    Pacific Coast Eventing
                    Standing Yeager GF

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by horsechick View Post
                      I wonder how much enviroment plays in developing bone? Are the ones left to roam out in pasture developing stronger bones than those with only an hour of turnout? And is there a certain stage in development where the bone will be as dense as it can be with no further changes to be seen?
                      Most definitely. I actually think there has been research to back this up -- to develop dense bone it requires impact (repeated impact) which is why it takes so long to TRULY 'fit up' a serious endurance horse. The adage in this sport is that to produce a successful 100 miler it take 6 mos for cardio, 1 yr for muscle/tendon and 2yrs for bone.

                      Not sure if it's that accurate or not, but that gives you an idea.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        It's a fine line -- the speed work done with the young Thoroughbreds actually promotes the bone to "remodel" from round to more oval shaped and "lay on" bone - it actually increases the size. But it does take the speed work to enjoy the remodeling effect. It does not have to incur stress/microfractures or bucked shins -- that's the fine line you ride -- trying to get the wind and body in racing condition without doing harm. The remodeling allows for the speed work to be increased because the structure is building enough to handle it. I think it's a huge mistake to keep youngsters stalled very much - being outside with others and allowed to run and play will certainly help in their development on many levels. The Kentucky breds enjoy the limestone based soils to help their bones harden (which we also have in Alabama to some extent). Considering all the testing done by the warmblood breeders -- why doesn't any registry or group start doing bone density studies and track bloodlines that seem to produce truly "better" bone? Aren't they studying OCD? Seems logical to me.
                        PennyG

                        Comment

                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          Have the Standardbred people done any similar research on the effects of their training on bone? The Grayson research was limited to race training of TBs, which doesn't emphasize trotting. I've always believed that Standardbreds, as a group, were pretty darned sound comparatively.

                          My personal, and entirely unfounded belief, is that trotting on asphalt "hardens" the legs; tendons and bones benefit. OTOH, Amish horses . . .
                          "I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay."
                          Thread killer Extraordinaire

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Laurierace View Post
                            I think walking and trotting one hardpack or asphalt can help without access to a race track.

                            And this is something the "old" school eventers did a lot of....that many in the new school doen't seem to have time for. It used to be you would walk your eventers an hour a day on the roads (preferably dirt roads) on top of their regular work. I don't see that done as often anymore.


                            ETA: I did always think this long slow walking was more for soft tissue strength not bone.
                            ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **

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                            • #15
                              Penny brilliant observations and facts. Wish more people understood this concept. Where did the while bone thing start that bigger is better? Don't know but they still believe it in Ireland. Peruse the Irish Studbook and look at the draughts. Gives bone measurements such as 9 inches of bone. And so anything blood is deemed to be of weaker quality. Trust me my mare did not have the bone of the Irish horses in her barn and yet she was sounder and did not have things such as ringbone and splints. I did see a bit of that here but yet my mare is judged weaker. Everyone is big into how much bone a horse has to determine quality.

                              Turnout is important. We have the limestone soils here. I turnout on all surfaces. 24/7 most of the time but in the winter mud I do bring them in at night due to never ending mud. Many people here house young horses in barns during the winter with outdoor woodchip pens attached. Sometimes you do have to have them in depending on where you live.

                              I just read a study from performance genetics that said without a doubt horses who raced at 2 had longer sounder careers than those who raced older. But that was just looking at statistics. I found myself wanting to know if some of the ones who didn't race til older were injured as 2yo's. And it also was flat horses only. National Hunt racing are mostly 4 and up horses so how would you describe their soundness in a study. I see these horses with sometimes 8 years of racing. Anyway, thoughts to ponder.

                              Terri
                              COTH, keeping popcorn growers in business for years.

                              "I need your grace to remind me to find my own." Snow Patrol-Chasing Cars. This line reminds me why I have horses.

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                              • #16
                                Originally posted by TKR View Post
                                The wb breeders have tried with a bit of success for years to promote the idea that the size of the bone and amount of bone translates into strength and soundness. However, the size of the bone has zero to do with that -- the integrity of the bone and the density, hardness is the key. The bone should be ample to support the mass otherwise it is out of proportion. Thus a lighter framed horse with "good" bone -- i.e. lighter/smaller BUT denser is much better than a heavier, larger bone that is soft and porous. The only way to measure that is by ultrasound. Thoroughbreds come from ancestors that have raced and done sport type activities for over a century and the activities, i.e. the speed work will improve the bone and breeding them over the years continues to promote that. Not all Thoroughbreds are created equal, but I would not discount the hardiness of their bone in comparison to a larger bone just because of the size. Doesn't translate. When I read a comment about "good" bone meaning a heavy bone, it is totally ridiculous IMO.
                                PennyG
                                And to back this up all you have to do is look at the endurance Arabs I did CTR and some endurance for 15 years on tiny boned Arabs and if you want to win in endurance you better be on an Arab (well with some exceptions.)
                                RIP Kelly 1977-2007 "Wither thou goest, so shall I"

                                "To tilt when you should withdraw is Knightly too."

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                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Eventer55 View Post
                                  And to back this up all you have to do is look at the endurance Arabs I did CTR and some endurance for 15 years on tiny boned Arabs and if you want to win in endurance you better be on an Arab (well with some exceptions.)
                                  Little energizer horses.. they keep going and going and going lol
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                                  • #18
                                    Strength in bone is multifactorial just like in people.....genetics, nutrition and exercize all factor in. Breed for soundness first, then add correct nutrition and turnout and then weight bearing at the right time in the horses development. Vary the footing, vary the work. And I don't think you can tell bone density by ultrasound. I think you have to do a bone density scan which is more expensive and takes different equipment. May be why it isn't studied. I think Ultrasound is mostly diagnostic with soft tissues. Is in people anyway.

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                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by Laurierace View Post
                                      Bucked shins mean you crossed the line. You want to get as close to the line without crossing over as possible. I think walking and trotting one hardpack or asphalt can help without access to a race track.
                                      Roadwork is very good for improving bone. Both of mine do it in the run up to the season start.
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                                      • #20
                                        Over managed

                                        I think that issues of management can cause this much more than bone at maturity. If your young horses grow up in paddocks with carefully managed footing, flat ground, no rocks or gophers or washouts etc., even no room to ever get into a big gallop. They don't learn to run on uneven ground...manage their own balance...loose a foot in soft ground and recover...it is the difference between running across a rough old hay field and running on an asphalt track. We have cut the real world experience out of the lives of our children and our horses imagining we are keeping them safe. Instead we are depriving them of necessary muscle and bone experience they need to be successful eventers. PatO

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