Next Article in Journal
Effects of Selective Dry Cow Treatment on Intramammary Infection Risk after Calving, Cure Risk during the Dry Period, and Antibiotic Use at Drying-Off: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Current Literature (2000–2021)
Previous Article in Journal
Effect of Essential Oils on the Oxyntopeptic Cells and Somatostatin and Ghrelin Immunoreactive Cells in the European Sea Bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) Gastric Mucosa
 
 
Review

Growth and Bone Development in the Horse: When Is a Horse Skeletally Mature?

1
School of Veterinary Science, Massey University, Private Bag 11-222, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand
2
School of Agriculture and Environment, Massey University, Private Bag 11-222, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Francesca Arfuso
Animals 2021, 11(12), 3402; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11123402
Received: 10 November 2021 / Revised: 23 November 2021 / Accepted: 24 November 2021 / Published: 29 November 2021
(This article belongs to the Section Equids)
A comparison of the pattern of growth in the horse with definitions used to describe growth and development in humans demonstrates the same general pattern of growth. In the horse, these development periods are completed very early in life, generally by 2 years of age. Using a variety of measures to define the completion of growth and bone development, the horse enters skeletal maturity by the time it is 2 years old. There is little variation in the age of maturity across different horse breeds. These data support the hypothesis that the horse evolved to be a precocious cursorial grazer and is capable of athletic activity, and used in sport, relatively early in life.
Within the lay literature, and social media in particular, there is often debate about the age at which a horse should be started and introduced to racing or sport. To optimize the welfare and longevity of horses in racing and sport, it is important to match exercise with musculoskeletal development and the ability of the musculoskeletal system to respond to loading. The justification for not exercising horses at a certain age is often in contrast to the scientific literature and framed, with incorrect generalizations, with human growth. This review provides a relative comparison of the growth and development of the horse to the descriptors used to define growth and development in humans. Measures of physeal closure and somatic growth demonstrate that the horse completes the equivalent of rapid infant growth by weaning (4–6 months old). At approximately 11 months old, the horse completes the equivalent of the childhood phase of growth and enters puberty. At 2 years old, the horse has achieved most measures of maturity used within the human literature, including the plateauing of vertical height, closure of growth plates, and adult ratios of back length:wither height and limb length:wither height. These data support the hypothesis that the horse evolved to be a precocious cursorial grazer and is capable of athletic activity, and use in sport, relatively early in life. View Full-Text
Keywords: horse; maturity; physis; epiphyseal cartilage; racing; show jumping; sport; foal horse; maturity; physis; epiphyseal cartilage; racing; show jumping; sport; foal
Show Figures

Figure 1

MDPI and ACS Style

Rogers, C.W.; Gee, E.K.; Dittmer, K.E. Growth and Bone Development in the Horse: When Is a Horse Skeletally Mature? Animals 2021, 11, 3402. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11123402

AMA Style

Rogers CW, Gee EK, Dittmer KE. Growth and Bone Development in the Horse: When Is a Horse Skeletally Mature? Animals. 2021; 11(12):3402. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11123402

Chicago/Turabian Style

Rogers, Chris W., Erica K. Gee, and Keren E. Dittmer. 2021. "Growth and Bone Development in the Horse: When Is a Horse Skeletally Mature?" Animals 11, no. 12: 3402. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11123402

Find Other Styles
Note that from the first issue of 2016, MDPI journals use article numbers instead of page numbers. See further details here.

Article Access Map by Country/Region

1
Back to TopTop