Study: Equine Temperatures Remain Elevated Long After Exercise Concludes - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Study: Equine Temperatures Remain Elevated Long After Exercise Concludes

Rising temperatures affect everything on the planet, and horses are no exception. Dr. Elisabeth-Lidwien Verdegaal, an equine internal medicine specialist, says that horses are especially at risk of heat-related issues as they have not been able to acclimate to rising ambient temperatures, reports The Horse.

To better understand how a horse's body temperature increases during exercise, Dr. Verdegaal and a study team had 13 endurance horses and 12 trotting Standardbreds swallow a “smart” thermometer, which transmits real-time data about the horse's core body temperature. 

The horses were raced in winter in Australia at moderate speeds for 25, 50, and 75 miles and at intense speed for 5,000 feet.

The scientists learned that each horse is unique in how it heats up and cools down. On average, endurance horses reached peak core temperatures (averaging 102.2 degrees F) nearing the end of each 25-mile leg of the race. 

The Standardbreds were hottest (averaging 101.8 degrees F) in the first 40 minutes on average when they stopped racing. Nearly half the Standardbreds had temperatures above 102.2 degrees F over an hour after finishing the race, even when outdoor temperatures were only 64.4 degrees F. 

The researchers concluded that cooling-down time is imperative, and horses should be monitored for up to an hour once racing or exercise exertion concludes. Additionally, horses should not be trailered sooner than one hour after competition. 

The team also noted that the horses' heart rates did not accurately reflect their temperatures. Many horses still had an elevated core body temperature after their heart rate dropped below 64 beats per minute, which is the level at which the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) allows horses to continue in competition. Dr. Elisabeth-Lidwien Verdegaal suggested that number be reduced to 60 beats per minute to ensure horses are safe to continue competing. 

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The scientists also note that a generalized protocol to avoid heat stroke may not be ideal since horses respond differently to heat. The team hopes that the use of the thermometer pill will become more commonplace as horse owners and caretakers become increasingly concerned with their horse's safety and wellbeing. Horse owners will need to consider the horses' training level, hydration, cool-down effectiveness, and acclimatization to the weather. 

Read more at The Horse

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