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The multinational Global Equine Research Alliance conducted a novel study on the effects of early conditioning exercise of foals on behavior, orthopedic health and race training.
Thirty-three foals were allocated to 2 groups. Foals in the treatment group were raised on pasture and exercised for conditioning (COND) on an oval turf course from 3 weeks to 18 months of age. The exercise course was 515 meters in circumference. The speed and distance of the exercise regimen increased gradually with age, included clockwise and counterclockwise walk, trot and canter exercise and was intended to be a moderate amount of conditioning compared to the control group.
The control group was raised on pasture and allowed to exercise freely (PAST). Six animals in each group were sacrificed at 18 months of age. and a detailed evaluation of the musculoskeletal system including microscopic and biochemical analysis of joint surface cartilage was performed.
The remainder of the animals were followed into training and racing as 2- and 3-year-olds, with many variables related to their orthopedic health and conditioning monitored and compared between groups.
The workload of the COND group was 30% higher than that of the group allowed to exercise freely on pasture. There were no significant effects noted on clinical musculoskeletal health, overall behavior or measures of stress, and no adverse effects noted during the conditioning period. Foals in the COND group tended to be leaner and more muscular in appearance than controls. At 18 months of age, there were…