At what age does 'bone' mature?

cblover

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This may seem a random mad question and I'm not sure I worded the title correctly.

My youngster (2yr old) Teddy is a clyde x cob and I measured the amount of 'bone' he has today and it was 9". Well....I thought he'd have more actually and at maturity I would be hoping for 10" or more as my other cob has 10.5" and it makes me feel better about her weight carrying capacity.

Will Teddy's bone increase anymore between now and full grown? Cheers.
 
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I quite like Dr Deb Bennett's paper 'The Ranger Piece'

A lot of other veterinary literature concurs with her schedule of skeletal maturation. There is a useful table in Adams' Lameness if you have a copy (alternatively have a look for it on Google Books).

Hope that helps :)
 

stoneybroke

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I quite like Dr Deb Bennett's paper 'The Ranger Piece'

A lot of other veterinary literature concurs with her schedule of skeletal maturation. There is a useful table in Adams' Lameness if you have a copy (alternatively have a look for it on Google Books).

Hope that helps :)
That was fascinating .... thank you, as a breeder and producer a really interesting piece
 

Rollin

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I will certainly read that paper.

You might be interested in my experience. We know that the Cleveland Bay is a slow maturing breed which can continue growing until 6 years of age.

One of my 5 year old mares knocked her hock in the field shelter and was very sore. Although she was treated promptly by a vet, our farrier thought she was not right so we had her x-rayed. Although there was no evidence of lasting injury the vet told me she had delayed ossification of cartilage and recommended a special vit/min supplement for 3 months. the vet was surprised by this.

Our mares one sold to make 15.1hh at 3 made 15.3hh. Another 15.3hh at four is now 16.1hh
 

Miss L Toe

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I think that you can pretty much judge by eye as the cannon bone will be in proportion to the frame of the animal, so any "lightness" should be evident.
Also it is not just size but also quality of bone, to me a flatter type of leg is preferable to a very round leg, but then I am a TB fan rather than a cob fan. Shires/clydesdales/cobs will have rounder bone, but 9inches at two years old is pretty good.
Make sure he gets a bit of feed for youngsters for his first four or five years.
 
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Oscar

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My understanding is that the horses skeleton matures around age 7, it is a load of rubbish that x breeds mature quicker than y breed! They may reach mature height quicker but the bones are still developing.

My friend bought a off the track racehorse aged 4, looked like a typical TB, aged 8, she was 17hh and looked more like a WB than most WB's!!
 

Rollin

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I have read the article now and it does say that all horses mature at the same rate.

I was talking to another CB breeder earlier today who told me that some older breeders believed a CB should not be backed until 5 years old.

Although the article focuses on racing what about EU grading etc.?

I watched SF championships in France two years ago for 3yo at the end of their third year. They are loose schooled over big jumps, shown in hand and ridden over small jumps. The competition takes place in October so these young horses will have been started at just 3 years old.

I have seen video of a German warmblood auction with a 3 yo doing some impressive dressage.
 
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I have read the article now and it does say that all horses mature at the same rate.
This is correct.

It really does open your eyes and it's scary how many people really believe that breeds mature (skeletally) at different ages.

I have a friend who had a lot to do with warmbloods (Sweden, Germany and Luxembourg IIRC) and she said that joint injections were pretty common. She strongly believed that this was related to them being worked so young
 
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Different bits of the skeleton mature at different rates. As a (rough) rule of thumb, horses mature from the ground up.

It is also important to remember that bone is also living, changing tissue. It grows, shrinks & adapts to changes in its environment and bone density will change constantly in response to workload. It may not get any longer after a certain point, but it is possible for it to get stronger (or weaker).

There is a school of thought that it is a good idea to introduce carefully controlled levels of stress at an early age to prepare the skeleton for workloads later on.

Of course there are also schools of thought that early subjection to physical stresses will cause long term damage.

Anecdotally I've had Thb's (supposedly early maturers) who've only topped out at 8. I've also known horses to reach their mature height pretty early on.

There are variables such as diet, temperature & sex (apparently geldings will differ to entires, but as it is tricky to reverse, this is hard to say for sure).

All the literature is against working young horses before age 3 & I always staunchly supported the theory.

Then I had the privilege of managing 3 yearling colts. One was a great, big, tall heavy boned type, one was medium-sized & the other a small, very correct individual.

The large chap who I thought would require lots of time went on to win 5 races in his 2 YO career. But he suffered a breakdown as an early 3 YO. He was gelded & rested for most of his 3YO season, but is now back in racing & won his 2nd start back on the track. He reached 16hh fairly early on & will probably top out near 17hh like his sire.

The little chap had his hormones arrive in a rush just after his 2nd birthday & giving him a job seemed the best solution to managing him, so he shipped off to racing too. He has had a relatively busy competitive career, has had 2 wins at about medium level & is still going strong as a 4 YO never having been unsound. My physio treated him a week ago & could not believe how sound he is. He is by a 16hh stallion out of a small mare & optimistically stands at around 15'2 & there does not seem much more in the tank. However we're about to geld, so I might get a surprise.

My third chap was not mentally ready for anything at 2 & got to stay home, but turned a corner just before 3 & has adapted to racing like a pro. He is still a tall, elegant type & appears relatively sound. Still growing & should top out around 16'2 or so.

My fillies (mix of Thb's & WB's) were all started at 3, have all seemed late maturers & have not been 'finished' till around 7/8.

Those are my experiences, but there are plenty of anecdotes to support both schools of thought.

The Equine Science Training blog for example deals with various issues of exercise physiology (mainly aimed at racing), but seems to think that horses that enter training & race early, have longer, sounder careers. Then again lots of trainers are of the opinion that good 2YO's do not make good 3YO's.

I think you have to judge each individual on their merits. It is also worth bearing in mind that a slow, solid conditioning programme ought to strengthen & prepare a horse for whatever job you have in mind & it is the owner/rider's responsibility to pay attention & get that right-but the horse will usually tell you quite quickly when you're going wrong!
 

Miss L Toe

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I think you have to judge each individual on their merits. It is also worth bearing in mind that a slow, solid conditioning programme ought to strengthen & prepare a horse for whatever job you have in mind & it is the owner/rider's responsibility to pay attention & get that right-but the horse will usually tell you quite quickly when you're going wrong!
^^^this
To be honest racing T.B.s are looked after from day one [and before] they often never lack any nutrients and usually have plenty of play exercise up to time they are broken. Some are precocious and are backed as yearlings for a two year old career, but even some of these may be held back to start at three as they are just not furnished, not able to strengthen up. However the skelton is sill maturing til they are seven or eight.
With good grub and a good exercise/work regime thay can be in work for many years. Some flat horses retire sound at the age of ten or even more, having run hundreds of races. Most don't get there as they are too slow!
Studies on TB racehorses indicate that early training leads to sounder horses, but remember they are in the hands of professionals and are ridden by lighweights. They are brought on slowly but their work is incrementally increased, most leisure horses are broken later, often have heavier riders, and once brought in to work are kept in work. They don't have as much science or expertise to support them.
 
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There is a school of thought that it is a good idea to introduce carefully controlled levels of stress at an early age to prepare the skeleton for workloads later on.
This is an interesting point. When I have talked about this with others, the general feeling was that firstly youngstock should be turned out daily (preferably out 24/7) and that in-hand exercise (not lunging or using a horsewalker due to the constant turning) was a good thing.

Some people liked to longrein and others likes to ride an older horse and lead the youngster. One liked to do simple lateral work taught from the ground and I can see how this would be good.

It's the spine that you need to take time with. I wish that some proper research could be done on the relationship (to find out if there is one) between backing/breaking age and kissing spine.
 

Rollin

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This is an interesting point. When I have talked about this with others, the general feeling was that firstly youngstock should be turned out daily (preferably out 24/7) and that in-hand exercise (not lunging or using a horsewalker due to the constant turning) was a good thing.

Some people liked to longrein and others likes to ride an older horse and lead the youngster. One liked to do simple lateral work taught from the ground and I can see how this would be good.

It's the spine that you need to take time with. I wish that some proper research could be done on the relationship (to find out if there is one) between backing/breaking age and kissing spine.
Monty Roberts insists that no horse should be single line lunged as it will leave the horse with permanent back problems. He claims this is supported by scintigraphy research in California.

Is 24/7 turnout the best for youngsters? I have a horse which passed a five stage vetting in the UK, was passed sound by another Uk and three French vets, one an orthopaedic specialist. We took him to see an FEI vet at our nearest vet school show diagnosed a badly healed fracture in his neck and two kissing spines. He put this down to too much acitivity during the first year of his life.

I know of a Vet Hospital in the UK with quite a large TB client list who recommend periods of T/O and rest. I have to say that is what our foals get. Although climate plays a part. We aim for March foals but usually it is so hot by June they are all happy to be stabled during the hottest part of the day.
 
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I personally believe that 24/7 turnout is preferable. You do need a safe set up though and a sensible nanny. Accidents will sadly happen - that's horses unfortunately. I have found that keeping them out, stops the crazy hooley that they often (but not always) do after a night in.

I'm very sorry that your youngster broke his neck.
 
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Rollin - in South Africa our THB foaling season starts from August and runs through to the end of the year (obviously early foals are more desirable).

The first few days they are stabled and then let out in a small paddock with mum, after which they will go out in groups with similarly aged other foals and mares. Some studs like smaller groups and paddocks, some prefer lots of wide open space. All depends on the individuals I guess, but they are usually sorted into peaceful groups.

As those are our warm summer months, the horses are usually left to live out 24/7 until weaning (depends on stud, but 6 months is a good ballpark). Then the littlies are removed from their dams and turned out into same sex groups more or less 24/7. Our climate is pretty mild, but they will be brought in for the worst extremes of the weather. Some breeders like the foals to get a good first winter cold to help them build their immunity.

I had a mixed bunch of youngsters and liked to stable the colts at night for peace of mind ! I originally had them at a large facility where they could go out with a mixed age group, but then moved them home where I didn't have geldings for the colts to play with. A WB breeder advised that groups of 3 seem to be optimal. Rambunctious individuals get to work off excess energy and the less energetic ones sort of share the load so that they don't get overtired. I found that that worked well for us.

Our yearling sales tend to start from around February (when babies are around 18 months old), so a couple of months before sale time, babies will be brought in, stabled, groomed, walked / given controlled exercise to get them sale ready.

After the sales, horses are generally turned out again until they turn 2 when they'll be brought in again for backing and pre-training.

I also like to give babies a fair amount of handling so that they learn about being led, basic grooming (being polite for the vet and farrier is important), are used to rugs going on and off (useful when it comes to saddling later on), etc. I got told off for molly coddling my babies, but as they were used to rugs and things sliding on and off, straps around their tummies and leg straps from an early age, they were all easy to back (a saddle was simply a smaller rug with a slightly tighter belly strap), had no issues with long lines round their back legs, etc.

I would agree with all the above with regard to lunging youngsters, but once you're heading towards backing, you do need to prepare the back a little to carry a human load (and you also want the horse to be a relatively safe conveyance) so I do like to lunge / long-line and put in a bit of steering, but for limited periods only. Young brains are very small and can't absorb too much at a time. Also if the horses have been turned out and do get a fair bit of exercise, there should be some existing muscle tone.

Little and often is usually a safe bet. You can always go back and do more, but you can never go back and do less !!
 

Rollin

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I personally believe that 24/7 turnout is preferable. You do need a safe set up though and a sensible nanny. Accidents will sadly happen - that's horses unfortunately. I have found that keeping them out, stops the crazy hooley that they often (but not always) do after a night in.

I'm very sorry that your youngster broke his neck.
I did not breed him. He was purchased as a 3 YO after two sound vettings in the UK. It has made me somewhat cautious with turnout for our youngsters.
 
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He put this down to too much acitivity during the first year of his life.
.
Surely an unfortunate accident?

Restricted movement has a proven negative effect on the muscular skeletal system. An extreme example of this would be veal calves.

I personally, with my own youngsters, would rather have them out on the hillside, than 'safe' and confined to a 12ft x 12ft box. It's a risk that I'm willing to take. Others have their own thoughts/opinions on this.

I have had some negative comments RE turning the horses out on sloping land, but they will be expected to ride around this terrain when older and they are very footsure because they are used to it. Although I have arabs - there are a lot of Welsh Stud Farms in my area and they have all their stock (young and old) out on the hillsides. It's normal here.

I used to have a TB Stud Farm near me (England) and they also kept the youngsters out in groups of the same age. Some of those horses were so valuable, but they were out even in the depths of winter (no rugs too).

I firmly believe that the majority of owners have their horse's best interests at heart and want to do the best for them with the facilities that they have. :)
 
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