Objective—To investigate the influence of early conditioning exercise on the development of gross cartilage defects and swelling behavior of cartilage extracellular matrix (ECM) in the midcarpal joint of horses.
Procedures—6 horses underwent early conditioning exercise from birth to 18 months of age (CONDEX group), and 6 horses were used as control animals (PASTEX group). The horses were euthanized at 18 months of age, and the midcarpal joints were harvested. Gross defects of the cartilage surface were classified and mapped. Opposing surfaces of the third and radial carpal bones were used to quantify swelling behavior of the cartilage ECM.
Results—A wide range of gross defects was detected in the cartilage on the opposing surfaces of the bones of the midcarpal joint; however, there was no significant difference between the CONDEX and PASTEX groups. Similarly, no significant difference in swelling behavior of the cartilage ECM was evident between the CONDEX and PASTEX groups.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—In the study reported here, we did not detect negative influences of early conditioning exercise on the prevalence of gross defects in cartilage of the midcarpal joint or the quality of the cartilage ECM as defined by swelling behavior. These results suggested that early conditioning exercise may be used without negative consequences for the midcarpal joint and the cartilage ECM of the third and radial carpal bones.
Objective—To investigate histomorphometric changes in the cartilage and subchondral bone of the third carpal bone associated with conditioning exercise in young Thoroughbreds.
Animals—Nine 18-month-old Thoroughbreds.
Procedures—Both third carpal bones of 9 horses (4 exercised spontaneously at pasture only and 5 given additional conditioning exercise beginning at a mean age of 3 weeks) were evaluated. Histomorphometric variables (hyaline and calcified cartilage thickness and collagen orientation; vascular channel area, number, and orientation; and osteochondral junction rugosity) of the third carpal bone, sampled at 4 dorsopalmar sites in the radial facet, were compared between the exercised and nonexercised groups.
Results—The vascular channel area measured at the 4 dorsopalmar sites was larger in the exercised group than in the control group, but none of the variables were significantly different between groups. Both groups had significant site-specific variations in all measured variables. Most importantly, the vascular channel area was highest in the most dorsal aspect.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results suggested that the mild exercise imposed in both groups during the developmental period appeared to be associated with an increase in the vascular channel area beneath the calcified cartilage layer in the third carpal bone. This increased vascular channel area could also be associated with high stress in the dorsal aspect of the radial facet, a region that is known to be vulnerable to osteochondral fragmentation.