Problems in the musculoskeletal system are the most common reason for impaired function and culling in insured riding horses in Sweden. Impaired function of the fetlock, e.g. arthritis, is a believed to be a multi-factorial problem. The aim of the pilot study was to find factors associated with problems in the fetlock.
This study focused on horses 5–7 years with fetlock problems. A questionnaire on training and management (feeding, housing, shoeing) was sent to 200 horse-owners with insurance policies on their horses; 100 had claimed insurance compensation for problems in the fetlock (I-horses) and 100 owners had healthy horses that served as controls (C-horses). The results of the proportions in each group were compared with a Chi-squared test. The response rate was 42%.
The results showed significant differences for training-related factors but not for management-related factors. The healthy C-horses were ridden for a longer period of time at each occasion (58.5 minutes per day) compared to I-horses (51.3 minutes per day) (P = 0.043). The C-horses jumped once a week and the I-horses 0.5 times per week (P = 0.0075). There was a tendency for shorter period of training free weeks to be beneficial (C-horses 4.0 weeks, I-horses 5.5 weeks per year; P = 0.083). A larger proportion of the I-horses participated in the Swedish Riding Horse Quality Test for four-year old horses (P = 0.043).
The results indicated that training-related factors were associated with whether a horse remained healthy or not. Further studies on training and educational systems of young horses are needed to prevent impaired function.