Objective: To determine the effect of a specific galloping exercise regimen on collagen fibril mass-average diameters (MAD) in the deep digital flexor tendon (DDFT) and suspensory ligament (SL) of young Thoroughbreds.
Animals: 12 Thoroughbred fillies, 21 +/- 1 (mean +/- SD) months old.
Procedure: 6 horses underwent a specific 18-month treadmill training program involving galloping exercise. The remaining 6 horses served as controls, undertaking low-volume walking exercise over the same period. Sections were excised from the midpoint of the DDFT and SL, and small strips were dissected from central and peripheral locations for each structure. Fibril diameters were measured from micrographs of transverse ultrathin sections, using a computerized image analysis program. An MAD value was calculated for the central and peripheral regions of the DDFT and SL for each horse. Values for both regions were compared between exercised and control horses.
Results: The MAD did not change significantly with exercise for either the DDFT or the SL.
Conclusion: Loading of the DDFT as a result of this exercise regimen was not sufficient to stimulate collagen fibril hypertrophy, in keeping with current data that indicate this tendon, compared with the SL and superficial digital flexor tendon (SDFT), is subjected to low loads. Microtrauma, in terms of reduction in fibril MAD, may have occurred in the SL at a site different from that sampled. Another possibility is that, between the trot and the gallop, loading of the SL does not increase to the same extent as that of the SDFT.