Joint Abnormalities and Performance in Young Cutting HorsesBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · April 10, 2012
When the limb joints of 438 young cutting horse prospects (yearlings and two-year-olds) were examined radiographically, at least one abnormality of the stifle, hock, fetlock, or knee was found in 408 (almost 90%) of the horses. This research was conducted at Colorado State University.
A second study used the same group of horses a few years later to look for relationships between abnormal radiographs, severity of osteophytes (bone spurs), whether or not the horses entered competitions, and amount of money won in competition when the horses reached three or four years of age.
Results showed that relatively small osteophytes in some hock joints were associated with a reduced likelihood that the horse would compete. In contrast, some defects were associated with an increased chance of earning money. While it would be tempting to say that the presence of joint abnormalities caused the horses to win, it’s more likely that both circumstances have more to do with heredity (winning horses come from winning genetic backgrounds but also carry a sire’s and dam’s vulnerability to certain injuries) and use (cutting, like every riding discipline, puts an increased strain on a horse’s joints and can lead to a particular set of injuries and defects in the musculoskeletal system).
Many joint and bone changes were not found to be associated in any way with performance outcome in this group of cutting horses.