Osteochondrosis (OC) is the most common developmental orthopaedic disease in horses and represents a major problem to the horse industry. The complete mechanism of this multifactorial disease is not yet elucidated, but it is accepted that OC lesions are the result of intrinsic genetic and external factors. The aim of the present work was to evaluate the relationship between breeding management and OC. Breeding conditions were recorded, and a radiological examination was performed in 223 foals. Feeding practice and housing management were analysed in a multivariate model to determine risk factors for OC in three periods: gestation, birth to weaning and weaning to one-year-old. The major breakthrough of this study is the significant relationship between OC development and (1) the maternal nutrition during gestation and (2) the type of housing of the foals during their first year. It appears that mares fed with concentrates during gestation are more likely to produce foals that are subsequently affected by OC compared with other mares (P<0.05). Foals housed exclusively at pasture until one year of age are significantly less affected than foals exclusively housed in box or, alternatively, in box and at pasture (P<0.05). These results underline the role of the energy metabolism and the level of exercise in the aetiologic process of the disease, and help to develop preventive strategies during the crucial period of gestation to one year of age of the foal.
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