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  • Author or Editor: Antony S. Blunden x
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Objective—To investigate effects of exercise on hyaline cartilage (HC), calcified cartilage (CC), and subchondral bone (SCB) thickness patterns of equine tarsi.

Sample Population—30 tarsi from cadavers of horses with known exercise history.

Procedures—Tarsi were assigned to 3 groups according to known exercise history as follows: pasture exercise only (PE tarsi), low-intensity general-purpose riding exercise (LE tarsi), and high-intensity elite competition riding exercise (EE tarsi). Osteochondral tissue from distal tarsal joints underwent histologic preparation. Hyaline cartilage, CC, and SCB thickness were measured at standard sites at medial, midline, and lateral locations across joints with a histomorphometric technique.

Results—HC, CC, and SCB thickness were significantly greater at all sites in EE tarsi, compared with PE tarsi; this was also true when LE tarsi were compared with PE tarsi. At specific sites, HC, CC, and SCB were significantly thicker in EE tarsi, compared with LE tarsi. Along the articular surface of the proximal aspect of the third metatarsal bone, SCB was thickest in EE tarsi and thinnest in LE tarsi; increases were greatest at sites previously reported to undergo peak strains and osteochondral damage.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Increased exercise was associated with increased HC, CC, and SCB thickness in mature horses. At sites that undergo high compressive strains, with a reported predisposition to osteoarthritic change, there was increased CC and SCB thickness. These results may provide insight into the interaction between adaptive response to exercise and pathological change.

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in American Journal of Veterinary Research