You have a young horse and you try everything to protect them. You give them plenty of turnout, good nutrition, and a safe space, yet some of them will still get OCD. This condition effects the cartilage and bone in the joint of horses. It’s often known as the young horse condition.

Defining Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD)

This condition is relatively common! In the OCD joints, malformed cartilage that’s irregular in thickness or strength will break off or float around the joint. It can also cause bone flaps. Ultimately, this leads to inflammation in the joint and eventually arthritis.

Several factors contribute to this condition. The most common ones include rapid growth and a large body type, nutrition, genetics, hormonal imbalance, and trauma or exercise.

Symptoms of OCD

There may be no signs at all in younger horses that aren’t in work. When the young horse starts their training under saddle, it’s common to see swelling in the joint for those with this condition. Some may also exhibit lameness and heat. It can occur in almost any joint, though the hock, stifle, fetlock, and shoulder are the most common areas.

Veterinarians often start with a physical and lameness exam. Once suspected, they should confirm with radiographs. Radiographs should include the opposite joints, as well. OCD is often bilateral.


In most cases, the best method of treatment is surgery. The location, your horse’s age, and intended use can all impact whether they’re a good candidate for it though. The longer OCD is ignored the greater risk for inflammation and arthritis.

It’s recommended to always do X-rays with your pre-purchase exam of a new horse. This condition can be silent on the outside, but the radiographs will usually pick it up.