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The most popular techniques used for studying equine kinematics are videographic recording combined with the analysis using a commercial software package or optoelectronic systems based on emission and detection of infrared or visible light. Such systems can be expensive, complicated to use and their use may be restricted to indoor use (in the case of infrared systems) or a limited number of strides when used outdoors. Recently, there has been considerable interest in monitoring motion using inertial measuring systems. The purpose of the present study was to determine the accuracy of the Pegasus system (European Technology for Business Ltd., Codicote, UK), which determines stride frequency directly when mounted on the withers. Eight horses of different breeds and sizes (447–588 kg) were studied at walk, trot and two speeds at canter on a treadmill. Simultaneous measurements of stride were made using the Pegasus and ProReflex motion capture systems. Mean stride frequencies (n = 8 horses) for the ProReflex and Pegasus systems at walk (0.86 ± 0.05 and 0.87 ± 0.05 strides per second, respectively), trot (1.36 ± 0.07 and 1.36 ± 0.07 strides per second, respectively) and canter (7 m s− 1: 1.92 ± 0.05 and 1.92 ± 0.05 strides per second, respectively; 8 m s− 1: 1.93 ± 0.05 and 1.94 ± 0.05 strides per second, respectively) were not significantly different (P>0.05). The mean difference between the two systems for all four speeds was − 0.002 strides per second (lower 95% CI: − 0.016; upper 95% CI: 0.011; P = 0.309). In conclusion, the differences between stride frequency measurements made with the Pegasus and ProReflex systems in horses exercising at walk, trot and slow canter on a treadmill are < 1% and not likely to be of physiological significance.
This study aimed to determine whether training aids (side reins and a Pessoa) increased the use of the longissimus dorsi when horses are being lunged. Horses were lunged on a circle under four different conditions on the left and right reins in walk and trot, and electromyographic (EMG) and speed measurements were taken using surface EMG at T16 and GPS, respectively. The EMG intensity was substantially greater for the longissimus dorsi on the inside of the circle. Differences occurred in both the timing and the intensity of the EMG between the conditions. At walk, the EMG intensity was the greatest for the control condition and at trot the EMG intensity was the greatest for the control and Pessoa control conditions. It is concluded that the training aids of side reins and a Pessoa do not increase the use of the longissimus dorsi to stabilise the back.
The objective of this study was to compare exercise-induced inflammatory responses in horses undergoing three different treadmill exercise tests. Mares completed a graded exercise test (GXT), an interval exercise test (IET) and a repeated sprint exercise test (RSET). Blood and synovial fluid samples were taken 24 h before (PRE) exercise, 20–30 min, 2 and 24 h following exercise (REC). Blood was analysed for total protein, haematocrit and total nitrite concentration. Pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokine transcripts were measured in whole blood using quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction. Synovial fluid was analysed for total nitrite. Mares spent more time at greater than 90% of their maximum heart rate during the RSET than they did for either the GXT or IET. There was an effect of exercise test (P < 0.0001) and exercise test by sample interaction (P = 0.010) for plasma total nitrite. Pro-inflammatory cytokine transcripts and plasma total protein were elevated (P < 0.05) after exercise and there was a higher (P < 0.0001) nitrite concentration in tibiotarsal joints compared with radiocarpal joints. As hypothesised, the higher-intensity exercise test (RSET) resulted in greater nitric oxide responses as well as markers of exercise intensity compared with less intense exercise tests (IET, GXT).
While there have been several studies of heart rates (HRs) of horses during exercise in water, the effect of exercise in water of different temperatures has not been reported. While the increase in HR during exercise is primarily related to the intensity of exercise and therefore metabolic rate, increasing body temperature can also contribute to elevations in HR separate to muscle metabolic activity per se. When exercising in water, as the thermal conductivity is greater than that of air, the temperature of the water can have a marked influence on body temperature and heat exchange compared with exercise in air. The aim of the present study was to investigate the effect of water temperature on HR of horses walking for 16 min on a water treadmill in water up to the height of the scapulohumeral joint. Eight horses were studied in three separate exercise tests in water at 13, 16 and 19°C in a randomised order in an ambient temperature between 4 and 10°C. HR was recorded continuously throughout exercise. Mean HR over the 16 min exercise period was the lowest in 13°C water (79 ± 6 bpm), intermediate in 16°C water (89 ± 7 bpm) and the highest in 19°C water (92 ± 5 bpm). A one-way ANOVA and post hoc least significant difference test comparing mean HRs at each temperature showed that there was a significant difference between HRs in water at 13 and 16°C (P < 0.0001) and in water at 13 and 19°C (P < 0.0001), but not between water at 16 and 19°C (P>0.05). Individual HRs for horses during the first minute of exercise in water of 13°C were significantly different from those in water at 16°C (P < 0.0001) and 19°C (P < 0.0001). The gradients of the log HR–time relationships showed a significant difference between exercise in the latter part of exercise in 19°C when compared with 13°C (t = 34.0, P < 0.05) and 16°C (t = 67.4, P < 0.05), suggesting that cardiovascular drift is likely when exercising in temperatures of 19°C and above. In conclusion, to the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to describe the effect of water temperature in the range of 13–19°C on the HR of horses during water treadmill exercise. Further studies to investigate the effect of different water depth and temperature combinations are indicated.
The objectives were to investigate the effects on fluid balance, digestion and exercise response in Standardbred horses in race training when feeding silage, haylage or hay-only diets. In experiment (exp) 1, five Standardbred geldings were fed forage-only diets: hay (82% dry matter, DM) and silage (45% DM) for 23 days in a crossover design. Total collection of faeces and urine was performed. In exp 2, six Standardbred geldings were fed forage-based diets: haylage (68% DM) and silage (41% DM) for 17 days in a crossover design. On day 17, an incremental interval exercise test was performed on an oval racetrack. In exp 1, horses drank more on the hay than on the silage diet, but total water intake (drinking+water in feed) was higher and resting values of total plasma protein (TPP) was lower on the silage diet. Total water output per day did not differ and therefore the estimated evaporation was larger on the silage than the hay diet. The apparent digestibility was higher on the silage than the hay diet. In exp 2, heart and respiratory rate, TPP and lactate and blood pH did not differ between the haylage and silage diets during and after the exercise test. In conclusion, feeding silage did not affect faecal water content, but apparent digestibility and estimated evaporative fluid loss were higher on the silage diet compared with the hay diet. The silage did not adversely affect the response to intensive exercise compared with haylage. However, the estimated higher evaporative fluid loss on the silage diet compared with the hay diet might cause an unnecessary challenge during more prolonged exercise.
In human athletes, the physiological effects of physical activity on digestion could differ depending on whether it is a bout of exercise or a long-term conditioning. When the aim is to investigate the effect of long-term endurance training on the digestive physiology in competing horses, animals need to be at complete rest during the digestibility and mean retention time (MRT) measurements. We hypothesized that the resting period allowed to horses post-race, and particularly the second week following an endurance race, could be an adequate period to assess digestive physiology and that measurements would still be representative of the pre-competition status. Nutrient total tract apparent digestibility, total MRT and faecal microbial composition and activity measured before a 90 km endurance race were compared with the data obtained post-race, during the second week of the resting period. No differences in the digestibility coefficients, MRT, faecal pH, lactate concentrations and bacterial counts were observed before and after the endurance race. The propionate proportion was higher and the (C2+C4):C3 ratio was lower during the second week post-race than before the race. Carrying out measurements during the second week post-race provides data close to the pre-race status, and avoids an a disturbed training schedule and unnecessary stress before the race in competing endurance horses.
Research into other sports has shown that excessive levels of anxiety can undermine motor function during performance. This study aims to investigate the effects of anxiety and self-confidence on equestrian performance. Forty riders (12 male, 28 female; 15 elite, 25 non-elite; 12 dressage, 17 showjumping, 11 eventing) completed the Revised Competitive Sport Anxiety Inventory 2 (CSAI-2R), which measures the levels of somatic and cognitive anxiety (arousal) as well as levels of self-confidence. Two-way between-subjects MANOVA tests were used to examine competence-by-discipline interactions and gender-by-discipline interactions in CSAI-2R scores. Post hoc analysis was conducted using one-way univariate ANOVA tests. Spearman's rank correlation tests were conducted between each of the CSAI-2R subscales according to competence, discipline and gender. Most important findings include lower somatic arousal and higher self-confidence in elite compared with non-elite riders, with 15.2 ± 4.4 vs. 19.0 ± 5.0, F1,34 = 5.8, P < 0.05; 31.5 ± 4.8 vs. 25.1 ± 7.4, P < 0.01, respectively. Negative correlations between cognitive arousal and self-confidence were found among elite riders, non-elite riders, showjumpers and female riders (r = − 0.69, P < 0.005; r = − 0.41, P < 0.05; r = − 0.52, P < 0.05; r = − 0.33, P < 0.05). Greater riding-specific skills in the elite rider may result in increased self-confidence. Lower levels of somatic anxiety may further increase fine motor skills in elite riders. Practical implications are that non-elite riders would benefit from sport psychological interventions increasing levels of self-confidence and reducing symptoms of somatic arousal to improve performance.
The equine hoof wall is a hard, keratinous structure that transmits forces generated when the hoof connects the ground to the skeleton of the horse. During locomotion the hoof capsule is known to deform, resulting in an inward curvature of the dorsal wall and expansion of the heels. However, while researchers have studied the tensile and compressive properties, there is a lack of data on the flexural properties of the hoof wall in different locations around the hoof capsule. In this study, the flexural properties and hydration status of the hoof wall were investigated in two orthogonal directions, in different locations around the hoof capsule. The hoof was divided into three regions: the dorsal-most aspect (toe), the medial and lateral regions (quarters) and the heels caudally. Beams were cut both perpendicular (transverse) and parallel (longitudinal) to the orientation of the tubules. Differences in the mechanical properties were then investigated using three-point bending tests. There were considerable differences in the flexural properties around the hoof capsule; transverse beams from the heel were 45% more compliant than those from the toe region. This corresponded with changes in the hydration of the hoof wall; beams from the heel region were more hydrated (28.2 ± 0.60%) than those from the toe (24.2 ± 0.44%; P < 0.01). Regional variation in the water content is thought to help explain differences in the flexural properties. Mechanical data are further discussed in relation to variation in the structure and loading of the hoof wall.