Understanding Palmar Osteochondral Disease in Racehorses
How it Happens
Palmar osteochondral disease is a condition affecting the lower ends (condyles) of the cannon bone—an area subject to very high and repetitive forces during racing or race training. To understand why it occurs, we first need to understand how bones adapt to exercise.
“Horses in high-intensity exercise like race training adapt their bones to the repetitive loads placed on them—this is a normal process,” said Garrett. “If you want a bone to become strong at race training, you need to train the bone to know these are the forces being asked of it. Bones are incredibly smart, and they will adapt in response to these loads.”
This adaptation doesn’t happen overnight; she said it can occur over days to weeks to months. “Ideally, the bone makes those adaptations and can keep up with training load,” Garrett said. “This balance can be difficult to strike, and we don’t always get it right, unfortunately. POD develops when an imbalance exists between the work asked of a horse and the horse’s ability to adapt the bone quickly enough—essentially the bone can’t keep up, and a normal process gets out of hand
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