Owners attending the inaugural Thoroughbred Ownership Conference at Keeneland Race Course, in Lexington, Kentucly, received a tutorial in proper horse care, common health and physical problems, and what some organizations are doing to improve the quality of life for equines and those who take care of them.

During the Oct. 15 panel "Care for the Thoroughbred and Foundations," equine veterinarians Larry Bramlage, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, and Jeff Blea, DVM, explained how the day-to-day training and racing regimen not only takes a toll on horses, but also how some health and physical problems can be avoided.

Bramlage, a renowned orthopedic surgeon, said the horse's skeletal system is the most important component of an equine athlete's makeup and that marginal fractures in the bones are among the most common injuries to a horse. "Their skeletons are their most vulnerable system," he explained. "What we are worried about is wear and tear over time."

With a two-year maturation period for horses compared with the 20-year span to maturity for humans, equine athletes actually use training and racing to strengthen their bones as long as the regimen is not overdone.

"The horse actually strengthens bone with training," Bramlage said, citing what he called the "overload, over-repair" effect on the bones that comes with training and racing as being positives. However, he said if the overload comes faster than the over-repair, bone damage can result.

Bramlage cited data from California racing post-mortems that showed horses with a combination of timed workouts and races totaling 35 furlongs (equival