The aim of this study was to identify the risk factors for the severity of Juvenile OsteoChondral Conditions (JOCC) in limbs of French foals. Twenty-one farms in Normandy, France, were sampled and enrolled in a cohort study including 378 foals from three breeds, followed from the 8th month of pregnancy of the mares until the foals were approximately 6 months old. Data on growth, feeding practices and exercise conditions were regularly collected. The carpus, the front and hind digits, the hock and the stifle of the foals were radiographed at the end of follow-up. JOCC severity in each foal was described using a global appraisal of its osteoarticular status (OAS) depending on the number and the severity of radiographic findings.
Of the 378 foals, 53% had a good OAS, 34% had an intermediate OAS and 13% had a poor OAS. The breed (Selle Français and French Trotter Standardbred vs. Thoroughbred), a high girth perimeter at early age and an irregular exercise were significantly associated with a poor OAS. This study contributes to the understanding of the development of JOCC. An increased growth and reduced or irregular physical activity during the first weeks of life would be responsible for more severe lesions. Growth and exercise conditions should be carefully monitored to reduce the prevalence of severe JOCC in foals.