Does Juvenile Play Programme the Equine Musculoskeletal System?
School of Veterinary Science, Massey University, Private Bag 11 222, Palmerston North 4410, New Zealand
School of Agriculture and Environment, Massey University, Private Bag 11 222, Palmerston North 4410, New Zealand
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Received: 26 July 2019 / Revised: 29 August 2019 / Accepted: 2 September 2019 / Published: 3 September 2019
Locomotor play is a common behaviour expressed across a diverse range of species. As a cursorial animal, the horse is capable of locomotor activity within a relatively short time after birth. In the foal, spontaneous locomotor play occurs early in life and has an obvious role in the development of locomotor skills. The intensity and vigour of locomotor play increases with age and this, in turn, provides cumulative increases in the loads the musculoskeletal system experiences. These progressive cumulative loading cycles (bouts of locomotor play), in both the timing and magnitude, reflect the microstrain required to stimulate bone development based on the mechanostat theorem. Data from the published literature were presented to provide empirical support for this hypothesis. Thus, spontaneous locomotor play may be vital to ensure optimal bone development in the horse. Modern production systems need to provide appropriate opportunities for foals to perform spontaneous locomotor play to optimise bone development and reduce the risk of future musculoskeletal injury later in life.