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Title: Prematurity and Dysmaturity Are Associated With Reduced Height and Shorter Distal Limb Length in Horses
Contributor(s): Clothier, Jane  (author)orcid ; Small, Alison (author); Hinch, Geoff  (author)orcid ; Brown, Wendy Y  (author)orcid 
Publication Date: 2020-08
Early Online Version: 2020-05-22
DOI: 10.1016/j.jevs.2020.103129
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The long-term effects of gestational immaturity in the premature (defined as < 320 days gestation) and dysmature (normal term but showing some signs of prematurity) foal have not been thoroughly investigated. Studies have reported that a high percentage of gestationally immature foals with related orthopedic issues such as incomplete ossification may fail to fulfill their intended athletic purpose, particularly in Thoroughbred racing. In humans, premature birth is associated with shorter stature at maturity and variations in anatomical ratios, linked to alterations in metabolism and timing of physeal closure in the long bones. We hypothesized that gestational immaturity in horses might similarly be associated with reduced height and different anatomical ratios at maturity. In this preliminary study, the skeletal ratios of horses with a history of gestational immaturity, identified through veterinary and breeder records, were compared with those of unaffected, closely related horses (i.e., sire, dam, sibling). External measurements were taken from conformation photographs of cases (n = 19) and related horses (n = 28), and these were then combined into indices to evaluate and compare metric properties of conformation. A principal component analysis showed that the first two principal components account for 43.8% of the total conformational variation of the horses' external features, separating horses with a rectangular conformation (body length > height at the withers), from those that are more square (body length = height at the withers). Varimax rotation of PC1 and analysis of different gestational groups showed a significant effect of gestational immaturity (P = .001), with the premature group being more affected than the dysmature group (P = .009, P = .012). Mean values for the four dominant indices showed that these groups have significantly lower distal limb to body length relationships than controls. The observed differences suggest that gestational immaturity may affect anatomical ratios at maturity, which, in combination with orthopedic issues arising from incomplete ossification, may have a further impact on long-term athletic potential.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Source of Publication: Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, v.91, p. 1-7
Publisher: Elsevier Inc
Place of Publication: United States of America
ISSN: 1542-7412
Fields of Research (FoR) 2008: 070702 Veterinary Anatomy and Physiology
070206 Animal Reproduction
Fields of Research (FoR) 2020: 300902 Veterinary anatomy and physiology
300305 Animal reproduction and breeding
Socio-Economic Objective (SEO) 2008: 830306 Horses
839901 Animal Welfare
Socio-Economic Objective (SEO) 2020: 109902 Animal welfare
100406 Horses
Peer Reviewed: Yes
HERDC Category Description: C1 Refereed Article in a Scholarly Journal
Appears in Collections:Journal Article
School of Environmental and Rural Science

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