The role of conformation in musculoskeletal problems in the racing Thoroughbred


Colorado State University, Equine Science and Equine Orthopaedic Research Programs, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523, USA


Reasons for performing study: The relationship of conformation to future potential injury is a standard approach in practise but, at present, is largely based on subjective observations.

Objective: To measure conformation in 3-year-old Thoroughbreds and objectively test its relationship with the occurrence of musculoskeletal problems.

Methods: Conformation measurements were taken from photographs using specific reference points marked on the horses and processed on the computer. Clinical observations were recorded for each horse on a regular basis. Stepwise (forward) logistic regression analysis was performed to investigate the relationship between the binary response of the clinical outcomes probability and the conformation variables by the method of maximum likelihood.

Results: Clinical outcomes significantly (P<0.05) associated with conformational variables included effusion of the front fetlock, effusion of the right carpus, effusion of the carpus, effusion of the hind fetlock, fracture of the left or right carpus, right front fetlock problem and hind fetlock problem.

Conclusions: Offset knees (offset ratio) contributed to fetlock problems. Long pasterns increased the odds of a fracture in the front limb. An increase in the carpal angle as viewed from the front (carpal valgus) may serve as a protective mechanism, as the odds for a carpal fracture and carpal effusion decreased with an increase in the carpal angle.

Potential relevance: This study demonstrates relationships between conformation and musculoskeletal disease in the racehorse. The information may be useful in selection and management of the racing Thoroughbred.