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Open Access Research

Prevalence of clinical findings at examinations of young Swedish warmblood riding horses

Lina Jönsson1*, Lars Roepstorff2, Agneta Egenvall3, Anna Näsholm1, Göran Dalin2 and Jan Philipsson1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics, Uppsala PO Box 7023 Sweden

2 Department of Equine Studies, Uppsala PO Box 7043 Sweden

3 3Department of Clinical Sciences, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, PO Box 7054 750 07, Uppsala, Sweden

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Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica 2013, 55:34  doi:10.1186/1751-0147-55-34

Published: 18 April 2013

Abstract

Background

Soundness of an individual horse is important for animal welfare and owner economy. However, knowledge of health status in normal horse populations is limited due to lack of systematic health recordings. The aim of the investigation was to study the prevalence of veterinary clinical findings in 4-5-year-old Swedish warmblood riding horses, and their influence on overall health scores, where associations to future longevity has been indicated.

Results

The prevalence of clinical findings in 8,281 horses examined during 1983–2005 was studied according to a standardised protocol and related to overall health scores in linear statistical models. Effects of sex, age, examination event and changes over time were included. In total, 49% of the horses had clinical findings of medical health (MED), 42% in hooves (HOOF) and 74% of palpatory orthopaedic health (PALP). However, only 6%, 3% and 24% had moderate or severe findings, of MED, HOOF and PALP, respectively. Flexion test reactions were reported in 21% of the horses (5% moderate/severe), heavily influencing the overall score (H2). One fifth of these horses also had findings of unprovoked lameness while 83% had PALP findings (44% with moderate/severe findings). Acute clinical signs, i.e. heat or soreness, had a large influence on the H2 score but were rare, whereas more common clinical findings had smaller effects on overall health. Large variations in recorded health results were observed among events. A decrease in findings has occurred since 1983, in particular for PALP findings.

Conclusions

Results of occurrence and relevance of evaluated clinical findings could be used for advice on preventive actions to keep horses sound, and possibly for benchmarking, and genetic evaluation of health traits. The distinct effect of event on recorded clinical findings emphasises that further harmonisation of veterinary examinations are desirable.

Keywords:
Medical health; Orthopaedic health; Flexion test; Hoof; Clinical signs