How Slow Do Warmbloods Grow?
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How Slow Do Warmbloods Grow?

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Recent article in Warmbloods Today referencing Dr. Clabaugh and Aramat Farm.

Recent article in Warmbloods Today referencing Dr. Clabaugh and Aramat Farm.

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    How Slow Do Warmbloods Grow? How Slow Do Warmbloods Grow? Document Transcript

    • How Slow Do WarmI magine the scene: Two young horses that are the same age are playing happily in a lush pasture. One, a two- • The coffin bone solidifies at birth year-old Arabian, looks well on his way to physical • The short pastern fuses between birth and six months of age maturity as he cruises around the field. The other, a • The long pastern fuses between six months of age and one yeartwo-year-old Warmblood, has longer legs, trips easily and • The cannon bone fuses between eight months and one yearappears somewhat awkward as he tears up the turf. and a half Many Warmblood enthusiasts will agree that their • The small bones of the knee fuse between one and a half yearshorses mature slower than other breeds of horses. But and two and a half yearswhat do veterinarians and researchers have to say about • The bottom of the radius and ulna fuse between two and twothis theory? Warmbloods Today recently set out to find the and a half yearsfacts on Warmblood development. • The weight-bearing portion of the radius fuses between two and a half and three yearsIs There Proof? • The humerus fuses between three and three and a half yearsAccording to Dr. Kelleyerin Clabaugh, DVM, an equine • The scapula fuses between three and a half and four yearspractitioner and owner of Aramat Farm, a sport horse • The hock fuses around four years of agebreeding farm in Oregon that specializes in raising and • The tibia fuses between three and three and a half yearstraining three-day eventers, there are many opinions • The femur fuses in three stages between two and a half andabout Warmblood development, however there is three and a half years of age“surprising little fact or research about the matter.” • The pelvis fuses between three and four years of age “I do not know of any study that states that light boned • The vertebral column fuses when the horse is five and half years ofhorses are done growing by X years and Warmbloods are age, with male horses often taking up to six months longerdone by Y years,” she says. “Genetic lines, not just breed,dictate growth potential and duration. Nutrition and According to one leading equine orthopedic researcher,exercise also play a role in bone development.” Dr. Sue Dyson, it’s generally accepted that physes (growth In fact, one researcher, Dr. Deb Bennett, PhD, founder plates) close later in non-Thoroughbred breeds whenof the Equine Studies Institute, has compiled a “growth compared to Thoroughbreds, “but most will be closedplate conversion schedule” which establishes the typical radiologically by five to six years of age at the latest. Thetimes at which certain growth plates within the body distal radial physis is often the latest to close (in the lowerconverts into stable bone. Dr. Bennett’s timeline is general limb), but whether this is a site of later growth or it is otherfor all horses and is as follows: parts of the skeleton, I don’t think anyone knows.”Two-year-old Hanoverian gelding Baccarat (Bugatti Hilltop x Cor Noir)bred by Crossen Arabians & Warmbloods. He won numerous breedshow awards including the 2011 NEDA Year End Awards-1st place fortwo-year-olds in the Breeding Division. Photo courtesy Susan Crossen48 March/April 2012
    • bloods Grow? By Erica LarsonThe mare Beaujoulais (Oldenburg by LeSanto) (1 & 2) at 35 months at Flying Lion Farm. (3) At 36 months they put Beaujoulais into work.A different mare at Flying Lion Farm, Isabella (Oldenburg by LeSanto) that they felt needed more time to mature. Here (1 & 2) she too is 35 monthsold. (3) At 44 months they began Isabella under saddle. Photos courtesy of Flying Lion Farm Scientifically, there may be no specific proof that and physically to go to work. Every one is different.” Warmbloods grow slower than other breeds. However Juliana Whittenburg of Flying Lion Farm in central many breeders that produce Warmbloods as well as other Florida breeds Thoroughbreds for racing as well as breeds say there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that Warmbloods for sport. She notes that a lot of trainers Warmbloods mature later than other breeds. will start Thoroughbreds at one and a half which, in “It can vary for each individual horse, but in general her opinion, is way too soon. For the most part their Warmbloods mature later than our Arabs, therefore we farm starts their Thoroughbreds in light work at age two, start them later,” says Tom Crossen of Crossen Arabians & and she believes that the Thoroughbreds mature and Warmbloods in Coventry, Connecticut. Tom and his wife finish growing at around age four. Susan have been breeding horses for 25 years and started When it comes to her Warmbloods, Juliana agrees with with Arabians, have bred Arab/Warmblood crosses, and Tom Crossen.  “Every horse is an individual,” says Juliana. today they are breeding Hanoverians and Oldenburgs “One Oldenburg mare that we bred was started at three along with their Arabians. and she was ready to go into steady work. For the larger As the farm’s trainer, Tom remarks, “I can begin Warmbloods, we often wait until they are three and a ground work and regular round pen work with our half or four before putting them into regular work. We’ll Arabians usually at around two and a half to three, but the break them earlier, but then wait. Chances are they are still Warmbloods are started later at three or three and a half growing at four and need that extra time to mature.” or maybe even four, depending on the individual horse’s balance and/or mental maturity.”   Growth Factor Initially Tom puts a young Warmblood in the round pen When discussing equine growth and maturity rates with to assess whether the horse is ready to focus. “I can tell clients, regardless of what breed of horse they own, Dr. very quickly whether the horse is mature enough mentally Clabaugh uses an analogy of an oak tree and a pine tree: (Continues on p. 52) Warmbloods Today 49
    • (Continued from p. 49)“You want your horse’s bones to be strong and dense Nutrition for Healthy Developmentto withstand compressive and tensile forces. Oak trees One of the most important areas for juvenile horse ownersgrow slower than pines but if you ever watch an oak tree to evaluate is the food their young horses consume. As Dr.in a hurricane it can twist and bend in the wind without Clabaugh explains, certain factors in a young horse’s dietbreaking. The pine tree breaks every time.” can either help or hinder their physical development. Dr. Clabaugh explains that the biomechanical “As the gastrointestinal tract matures and the skeletalcomposition of young horses differs from that of adult system develops, most adult horses are able to meet theirhorses. “The juvenile’s joint responds to biomechanical energy requirements with good quality roughage alone,”loading (exercise) by developing increased collagen cross- she says. “But growing horses, particularly growing horseslinking resulting in improved tissue quality and injury in consistent work, require additional amino acids andresistance. This ‘functional adaptation’ is crucial early in life nutrients provided by concentrates.”as the joint loses its adaptability after five to nine months Many feed companies produce special feed for youngof age.” and growing horses. Dr. Clabaugh explains that these Dr. Clabaugh references a 1999 study by Barneveld feeds typically contain the appropriate trace mineralsand van Weeren that concluded that this biomechanical and vitamins for the juvenile horse. “Due to the nutrientloading was both beneficial and necessary for the proper variation in grass versus legumes, concentrates aredevelopment of the equine locomotor system, but designed to be fed with either grass hay or an alfalfa mix.”she also cautioned that exercise should be carried out What type of hay is best for a growing horse is oftencarefully in juvenile horses. a topic of contention amongst breeders and owners, but “I advise all my clients to strategically exercise Dr. Clabaugh explains that juvenile horses can develop(controlled conditioning and turnout) their horses starting properly on either grass hay or legume roughage (suchfrom birth,” Dr. Clabaugh relays. “Conditioning programs as alfalfa). “Many of my clients mistakenly assume thatshould allow for adequate alfalfa is ‘better’ than grassdowntime for bone hay with regard to proteinremodeling. It is important quality and caloric density,”to remember that the she says. “It is true that goodskeletal system must be quality alfalfa is better thandeveloped first and the average grass hay but oftenmuscle system later.” To good grass hay is betterthis end, she suggests the Left: Commonly used plants for hay include mixtures of grasses than average alfalfa. Without such as ryegrass (Lolium species), timothy, brome, fescue, Bermudaskeletal system is “best grass, orchard grass, and other species, depending on the region. having each roughagestimulated by very short Right: A high-quality mix of grass and alfalfa (legume) hay. analyzed, it is not possible towork periods on firm tell quality visually.” Next shefooting followed by free exercise on soft footing.” cautions, “It is not advised, however, to feed straight alfalfa She also cautions against excessive longing or round to growing horses as alfalfa may interfere with calciumpen work for young Warmbloods and adds that repetitive retention.”circles compress one surface of the joint and strain Dr. Clabaugh also stresses that a nutrient balancedthe opposite stabilizing structures which could lead to diet promotes growth over weight gain: “One study founddevelopmental problems for the juvenile horse. that horses eating only oats and alfalfa got fatter, while When starting a juvenile Warmblood under saddle, Dr. those eating a balanced concentrate along with alfalfaClabaugh stresses that moderation—not the age at which gained more height.” This is an important point to considerthe horse is backed—is key. “Musculature is necessary to because as Dr. Clabaugh explains, overweight juvenilesupport and stabilize joints and the larger breeds are often horses can develop some developmental disorders.still filling out as 4-6 year olds,” she explains. “Jumping is “A horse can be overweight but have good bonenot detrimental as long as it is not excessive. Repeatedly density. If, however, the horse is being fed only for weightjumping an underconditioned horse will increase the gain and not structural integrity, then DOD is more likelylikelihood of degenerative orthopedic disease (DOD) to occur. Weak, fibrous bone will not be able to supportincluding epiphysitis, osteochondrosis, juvenile arthritis the additional weight. As long as the diet is balanced,and degenerative soft tissue disease.” a horse can be fed to promote rapid growth without Dr. Clabaugh notes that there’s no hard and fast “recipe” negative consequences.”when it comes to starting a Warmblood under saddle, but Finally, are supplements important for growingencourages owners to ensure the horse has developed horses? “As long as you feed a concentrate designed toappropriately before starting intense training. complement your roughage source, you should not need52 March/April 2012
    • to add additional nutrients or minerals in the form of a “I recommend taking survey radiographs (X rays) priorsupplement,” she says. to commencing training,” she says. “If OC is diagnosed early, surgical debridement is often curative.”What Can Go Wrong?As previously mentioned, young horses are at risk of In Conclusionseveral developmental orthopedic disorders including: Surprisingly, there is little scientific research focused on Epiphysitis—Also known as physitis, epiphysitis is the the growth rate of Warmblood foals and juvenile horsesinflammation of growth plates (the areas within the bones as compared to other types of horses. There is a largeof young horses from which the bones grow or lengthen). body of anecdotal evidence and a common belief thatThe most common points affected by epiphysitis are just Warmbloods mature slower than other types of horses.above the knee, the cannon bones, and the lower tibia; When it comes to a young Warmblood, as with any Osteochondrosis—Osteochondrosis (OC) results from breed, it’s important to treat each horse as an individuala disruption in the growth of articular (within the joint) and address any unique needs as they may arise. Ifcartilage. The most frequent joint affected is the hock; questions should arise about the physical maturity of Juvenile Arthritis—Not surprisingly, juvenile arthritis is a certain horse, consulting asimply arthritis that develops in juvenile horses; and veterinarian is the best way Degenerative soft tissue disease—A condition to determine if a particularthat affects horses of all ages, degenerative soft tissue feeding regimen, trainingdisease occurs if a horse is not adequately conditioned, program or exercise routinedeveloped, and fit, then he is more likely to overuse his is beneficial or detrimental totendons and ligaments. Chronic overuse can result in the horse.degenerative suspensory disease, bowed tendons and Dr. Kelleyerin Clabaugh and “I am considerate of each Gryph. Photo © James Forestercollateral ligament desmitis according to Dr. Clabaugh. horse’s individual physical and The majority of the aforementioned ailments develop mental condition when determining the extent and scopewithin the first few years of life. Dr. Clabaugh notes, however, of exercise and competition,” Dr. Clabaugh says. “My focusthat OC can develop as late as four to five years of age. is my horse’s long term health and performance.” Warmbloods Today 53