Middle-of-the-Road Throat Problems in Racehorses: No Impact on Performance

Abnormalities in small structures in the horse’s throat—the arytenoid cartilages and larynx—can have little to no impact on some horses’ racing prospects but can end others’ careers. Until recently, the effects of aberrations in the middle were anyone’s best guess.
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throat problems in racehorses
Veterinarians use a flexible endoscope to peer inside the airway and grade laryngeal function. | Photo: Alexandra Beckstett/The Horse

When a potential buyer is prepared to spend thousands, hundreds of thousands, or millions, even, on a racing prospect, they scrutinize every inch of the horse’s body. Sales veterinarians know some apparent abnormalities shouldn’t negatively impact a future career, but the potential impact of other issues is less clear.

On one end of the spectrum, for instance, abnormalities in small structures in the horse’s throat—the arytenoid cartilages and larynx—can have little to no impact on a horse’s racing prospects, yet on the other they can end a career. But, until recently, the effects of aberrations in the middle were anyone’s best guess.

So, Brian Anderson, BVSc, MVSc, MS, MANZCVSc, Dipl. ACVS, of Ballarat Veterinary Practice, in Victoria, Australia, and colleagues recently evaluated whether middle-of-the-road laryngeal abnormalities identified in young Thoroughbreds offered at New Zealand sales, impacted future racing performance. He presented the results at the 2018 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Dec. 1-5 in San Francisco, California

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Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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