Do you bed your young horses down in stalls in the winter? How smooth and flat are your pastures? When you’re trying to raise good bones and joints, these questions are worth considering. Because, according to French researchers, how you manage your young stock can have a direct effect on how osteochondral lesions evolve—for better or for worse.

According to recent study results, pasturing horses on rough terrain and stabling horses up at night are risk factors for worsening juvenile osteochondral conditions (JOCCs) in horses between ages 6 and 18 months, said Anne Praud, PhD, researcher at the Alfort National Veterinary School in Maisons-Alfort.

Praud and her fellow researchers collected radiographic and farm management data for 259 yearlings born on 20 different stud farms in Normandy, France. They compared the JOCC lesions and severity in six-month radiographs (X rays) to those taken at 18-months. Then the team investigated links between the way the horses were managed and how their JOCC scores evolved over the one-year period. The study was a part of the larger Breeding, Osteochondral Status, and Athletic Career (BOSAC) research program led by Jean-Marie Denoix, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVSMR, director of the Centre d’Imagerie et de Recherche sur les Affections Locomotrices Equines (CIRALE) in Goustranville (Normandy), France.

The primary risk factors for a worsening JOCC score were related to traumatic injuries and biomechanical stress, Praud said. And horses kept on uneven pasture ground tended to have JOCC scores that worsened over time.

But, perhaps surprisingly for some breeders, between stabling horses in the barn at nig