September 10, 2020

Interpretive Summary: Effects of aquatic conditioning on cartilage and bone metabolism in young horses

Interpretive Summary: Effects of aquatic conditioning on cartilage and bone metabolism in young horses

By Anne Zinn

A recent study published in the Journal of Animal Science aimed to determine the influences of early forced exercise and type of exercise on serum and synovial fluid biomarkers of young horses and to provide insight into the effects of conditioning on joint inflammation and cartilage/bone turnover. Additionally, the research team aimed to investigate the effects of differing conditioning programs on joint inflammation, cartilage metabolism, and bone mineralization when transitioned from a moderate to an advanced workload on a dry surface. It is common practice in the equine industry to enroll young horses in an exercise training program to achieve a certain level of competitiveness. While proven beneficial in rehabilitation, aquatic exercise as a training program has not yet been thoroughly explored; specifically there is currently limited data available regarding the use of aquatic conditioning programs and the effect on bone and cartilage when transitioned into a high intensity exercise program on dry land.

30 Quarter Horse yearlings were used to evaluate three treatment options, including non-exercise control, dry treadmill, and aquatic treadmill. The results from this study indicate that walking is likely insufficient force to alter molecular regulation of joint metabolism, but early forced exercise, whether in a dry or aquatic environment, supports consistent bone metabolism necessary for uniform growth and bone development while non-exercised horses exhibited incongruent bone turnover in order to maintain a similar bone mineral density. Additionally, the results showed that there are no negative effects of buoyancy on cartilage metabolism in yearlings transitioned from aquatic exercise to an advanced workout. It was concluded that further research is necessary to determine the effects of aquatic conditioning on parameters of athletic capability, such as heart rate, respiration rate, and musculature.

The full study will soon be available on the JAS website.