Reasons for performing study: Disturbances in skeletal development, primarily osteochondrosis (OC) and palmar/plantar osseous fragments (POF), have been commonly reported as problems in young horses. However, there are few reports of such findings for epidemiological analyses or breeding purposes.
Objectives: To evaluate equine hospital data as a possible source of information for genetic evaluations by estimating prevalence and heritability of OC in the stifle, hock and fetlock joints and of POF in the fetlock.
Methods: Data on Swedish Warmblood (SWB) horses were obtained from a large equine hospital in south Sweden. Prevalences were based on radiographic examinations of 879 screened horses, mainly evaluated as part of a prepurchase examination and 3639 horses with a reported history of orthopaedic problems. For the heritability study the 2 data sources were pooled and 3199 examined horses with pedigree information were considered for the linear animal model analyses.
Results: The overall prevalence of OC was 13% (stifle 9%, hock 6% and dorsal osseous fragments in fetlock [DOF] 10%) and POF 10%. The overall heritability of OC was 0.05 on the visible binomial scale. The corresponding heritabilities for OC in the stifle were 0.03, hock 0.08, DOF 0.10 and POF 0.13. These values correspond to heritabilities of 0.09–0.38 on the underlying quantitative scale.
Conclusions and potential relevance: Obtained prevalences and heritabilities were in accordance with other studies, supporting the hypothesis that data regularly obtained from equine hospitals may be a valuable source in studies of inherited disorders such as OC and POF. There is a need for more standardised documentation of diagnoses and consistent recording of identity of examined horses using passports or breed databases. Compilation of results from major clinics is desired in order to cover most progenies of stallions used in a region or nation.