Obese Horses More Likely To Move Unevenly

In an effort to determine how added weight affects equine fitness and performance, Dr. Anna Jansson and a research team from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Hólar University published a study in Physiological Reports in which horses were fed controlled diets to add or restrict weight gain. The scientists used nine Icelandic horses that they split into two groups. Changes in body weight and fat were induced in the group being fed a high-energy diet for 36 days.

During the last seven days of the study period, researchers recorded body condition score and weight, and percentage of body fat was estimated with an ultrasound. Each horse was then given an exercise test on a treadmill and a field test that mimicked a competition, which was scored by judges. Blood samples were taken, as well as heart rate, temperature and respiratory rate.

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On the treadmill test, the horses that had gained weight had a higher heart rate and temperature, and heavier respiration. Blood tests showed that heavier horses had lower physiological fitness.

The team also found that overweight horses showed a marked gait asymmetry compared with leaner horses, as was shown both by sensors placed on the horses while they moved. The heavier horses moved most asymmetrically on the day after their field test.

Judges overseeing the field test also scored heavier horses lower than their leaner counterparts, suggesting that weight affects performance.

The authors conclude that higher body fat and body weight lowers equine performance, made horses move more unevenly, and delayed their recovery from exercise.

Read the full study here.

Read more at HorseTalk.

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