In a study of 83 German breeding farms, 226 of 629 foals between 5 and 10 months of age showed OCD lesions on radiographs.
Many other similar studies have confirmed this genetic tendency, but research has also linked OCD to feeding practices. Overfeeding
of carbohydrates is thought to alter the balance of hormones necessary for proper cartilage formation, and the slow-growth
curve of Warmbloods, along with their large body frames, makes this overfeeding very risky. Therefore, low-glycine feeds are
recommended for Warmbloods. These feeds provide energy through fat and fiber rather than through previously used starch and
sugar. These low-glycine feeds use so-called super fibers, such as beet pulp and soy hulls, which can provide twice the energy
of traditional fibers but in a safer form.
Many researchers suggest that growing Warmbloods might not even need concentrates if allowed access to good quality pasture
and hay and supplemented with balanced amounts of Ca, Ph, Zn and Cu. This information has been available to owners and breeders
for some time, but "unfortunately, some breeders have not embraced current research," Huntington observes.
Martin Adams, DVM, nutritionist with Southern States Equine Feeds, also agrees.
"Overfeeding and overweight young horses significantly contribute to developmental problems, and there are so many good commercial-feed
options for breeders that can be utilized to reduce these conditions," he says.
Ensuring that broodmares do not become overweight, their diets must contain balanced energy-to-vitamin and mineral intake.
Young Warmbloods, as well, must be kept slightly leaner and allowed to amass their natural weight slowly.
A 2-year-old Warmblood exhibits the long, rangy frame that is more comparable to a yearling Thoroughbred and traditionally,
there are still major changes occurring to the bodies through age 5. Some bloodlines have well-documented growth spurts that
occur as late as 7 to 8 years of age. This is verified by the European tradition of rarely putting Warmbloods into ridden
work before they are age 4 to 5, though they will be ground driven extensively before that time.
Many clients will seek veterinary attention for conditions that include upward fixation of the patella, periodic hind-end
weaknesses, inability of growing horses to correctly hold canter leads and even suspicion of EPM (equine protozoal myelitis).
While Warmbloods are certainly susceptible to all of these conditions, many times these problems are growth and development
related, so the horses in question simply lack the balanced muscle and ligament strength at that particular stage of their
development. The vast majority of such horses will "grow out of it" if allowed time to mature properly.
This process of slow maturation, along with lower carbohydrates and plenty of vitamins and minerals to build strong joints
and bones, allows first for the development of a proper frame to carry the heavy muscle mass that will be put on in later
years. Efforts to get these horses competing at higher levels earlier in their lives go against natural Warmblood development.
Often the veterinarian's task in these situations is to educate the owner and ensure that the horse is given time to correct
the problem itself. A healthy nutritional start and patience is often the best defense against later performance problems
in these breeds.
Another problem related to the peculiar metabolism of Warmbloods and draft-related breeds is equine polysaccharide storage
myopathy or EPSM. On-going studies at the Neuromuscular Disease Lab at the New York State College of Veterinary Medicine at
Cornell University have identified a metabolic defect in draft horses and related breeds, such as Warmbloods.
"Horses with EPSM seem not to be able to derive adequate muscle energy from carbohydrates," says Dr. Beth Valentine, co-author
of "Draft Horses, an Owner's Manual."