Correlation between routine radiographic findings and early racing career in French Trotters

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Reasons for performing study:

The relationship between the presence of radiological abnormalities and subsequent racing performance is controversial. However, as training is expensive and time consuming, it would save time and money to identify subjects with osteo-articular lesions not compatible with a normal racing career on the basis of routine radiographic screenings at yearling age.


To evaluate the impact of osteo-articular lesions on racing ability in French Trotters and identify radiographic changes associated with failure in ‘qualification’, in order to provide objective criteria for selection of horses based on their osteo-articular status.


The influence of radiographic findings (RF) on racing ability depends on their nature, location, clinical relevance and number.


The limbs of 202 French Trotters were radiographed just before they started training. All the RF were graded according to a standardised protocol depending on their severity. The success in ‘qualification’ (first race in career of French Trotters) was the criteria used to assess racing ability. Breeders and trainers were questioned about the causes for horses not racing.


Overall 113 (55.9%) horses qualified. Osteoarticular lesions were directly responsible for nonqualification in 31% of the horses. Subjects with more than one abnormal RF, with abnormal RF on the fore-, hind-fetlock or proximal tarsus were less likely to qualify. Dorsal modelling in the front fetlock and osteochondrosis of the lateral trochlear ridge of the femur also significantly reduced the qualification rate.


Most RF are compatible with beginning a racing career, but severe RF or multiple abnormal RF significantly compromise future racing career.

Potential relevance:

This study supports the use of routine radiographic programmes for detection of osteoarticular lesions in yearlings. A synthetic radiographic score, based on both the severity and the number of lesions, could be useful for breeders and trainers as complementary information to select their horses.

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