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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2014

Significance of ossificated ungular cartilages regarding the performance of cold-blooded trotters

Hedenström, Ulf O.; Wattle, Ove


Background: Ossification of the ungular cartilages (OUC) in the foot of horses has been studied for more than 100 years. There is a high heritability of this condition but its clinical relevance has remained questionable. Nevertheless, modern equine orthopedic literature ranks OUC as one of top 10 causes of lameness in cold-blooded trotters and stallions of these breeds are excluded from breeding if they have more than mild levels of side bones. Cold-blooded trotters have been used for racing for many decades and official sports data have been available since 1923. A decreased performance is often the only obvious clinical sign noticed by trainers and owners motivating them to seek professional help from veterinarians and farriers. By comparing various performance parameters in Swedish-Norwegian cold-blooded trotters without and with different grades of OUC, we aimed to determine the clinical relevance of ossified hoof cartilages in a population of high-performance horses.Front hooves from 649 Swedish-Norwegian cold-blooded trotters were evaluated radiologically regarding OUC. Breeding index and official sports data originating from strict protocols kept by groups of officials in trotting associations was used for comparison of performance of these horses that together had competed in more than 23,000 races between 1973 and 2009. Generalized linear mixed models were used for the statistical analyses. The response variable was modeled using ordinal logistic models with a multinomial distribution and a cumulative logit link function. The horse was used as a random factor.Results: Significant effects of gender on performance were demonstrated, but no correlations were found between different positions nor grades of ossified ungular cartilage and number of starts, running pace, race winnings, number of races completed in a regular gait.Conclusions: Ossification of the ungular cartilages does not cause decreased performance in cold-blooded trotters and is therefore most likely not a cause of clinical or subclinical lameness in this breed. Results from this study can assist equine professionals in evaluating and interpreting the clinical relevance of radiological findings on ossified hoof cartilage among heavy and high-performing horses.


Equine; Horse; Ossification; Performance; Ungular cartilage; Collateral cartilages; Side bones; Sidebones; Radiology

Published in

Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica
2014, volume: 56, article number: 74

Authors' information

Hedenström, Ulf O.
Wången AB
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Clinical Sciences

UKÄ Subject classification

Clinical Science

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