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Seasonal variations in daily rhythms of activity in athletic horses

  • C. Bertolucci (a1), C. Giannetto (a2), F. Fazio (a2) and G. Piccione (a2)

Abstract

Circadian rhythms reflect extensive programming of biological activity that meets and exploits the challenges and opportunities offered by the periodic nature of the environment. In the present investigation, we recorded the total activity of athletic horses kept at four different times of the year (vernal equinox, summer solstice, autumn equinox and winter solstice), to evaluate the presence of seasonal variations of daily activity rhythms. Athletic Thoroughbred horses were kept in individual boxes with paddock. Digitally integrated measure of total activity of each mare was continuously recorded by actigraphy-based data loggers. Horse total activities were not evenly distributed over the day, but they were mainly diurnal during the year. Daily activity rhythms showed clear seasonal variations, with the highest daily amount of activity during the vernal equinox and the lowest during the winter solstice. Interestingly, the amount of activity during either photophase or scotophase changed significantly throughout the year. Circadian analysis of horse activities showed that the acrophase, the estimated time at which the peak of the rhythm occurs, did not change during the year, it always occurred in the middle of the photoperiod. Analysing the time structure of long-term and continuously measured activity and feeding could be a useful method to critically evaluate athletic horse management systems in which spontaneous locomotor activity and feeding are severely limited. Circadian rhythms are present in several elements of sensory motor and psychomotor functions and these would be taken into consideration to plan the training schedules and competitions in athletic horses.

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Keywords

Seasonal variations in daily rhythms of activity in athletic horses

  • C. Bertolucci (a1), C. Giannetto (a2), F. Fazio (a2) and G. Piccione (a2)

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