The Horse as an Athlete: Sports Medicine, Rehabilitation and Wellness

A special issue of Animals (ISSN 2076-2615). This special issue belongs to the section "Equids".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 March 2020) | Viewed by 74665

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Guest Editor
Department of Veterinary Medicine, University of Milan, Via dell'Università, 6 - 26900 Lodi, Italy
Interests: veterinary; equine internal medicine; equine sport medicine; cardiology; ultrasonography
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The horse is an exceptional athlete, and its abilities are used in many different sports. Positive results depend on whether the individual is physiologically suited to the needs of the event. However, good performances are maintained by adequate management of the horse, appropriate and regular veterinary controls, a deep understanding of the physiological mechanisms of the main body systems involved in athletic performance, as well as the possibility of early and correct recognition of the diseases that can cause poor performance. Research studies on equine sports medicine contribute to the continuous updates on the pathological mechanisms of different syndromes, on the highest-quality diagnostic methods, and on the most suitable medical and surgical treatments. Rehabilitation also plays a very important role in equine sports medicine. The correct and appropriate approach of an injury, as well as the best technical and instrumental management, are fundamental for a rapid and possibly complete recovery of the horse. We welcome submissions of original research or review papers, focused on different aspects of the equine sport medicine, including (but not limited to) equine sports physiology, disease pathological mechanisms, novel diagnostic techniques, poor performance evaluation, medical and surgical treatments, management of injury, and rehabilitation of sport horses.

Dr. Enrica Zucca
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • horse
  • sports medicine
  • sports physiology
  • poor performance
  • rehabilitation
  • wellness

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Research

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7 pages, 433 KiB  
Article
The Relationship between Lung Inflammation and Aerobic Threshold in Standardbred Racehorses with Mild-Moderate Equine Asthma
by Luca Stucchi, Elena Alberti, Giovanni Stancari, Bianca Conturba, Enrica Zucca and Francesco Ferrucci
Animals 2020, 10(8), 1278; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10081278 - 27 Jul 2020
Cited by 11 | Viewed by 2309
Abstract
Mild–moderate equine asthma (MEA) is a common disease of young racehorses characterized by inflammation of the lower airways diagnosed by cytological examination of bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF), and it is considered an important cause of poor performance. The most common parameter of athletic [...] Read more.
Mild–moderate equine asthma (MEA) is a common disease of young racehorses characterized by inflammation of the lower airways diagnosed by cytological examination of bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF), and it is considered an important cause of poor performance. The most common parameter of athletic capacity associated with horse performance is the speed at 4 mmol/L of lactate (VLA4). The aim of the present work was to evaluate the relation between the different BALF inflammatory cells and VLA4 in racehorses affected by MEA. A population of Standardbred racehorses that underwent an accurate protocol for poor performance evaluation was collected for a retrospective study. Horses with any other alteration potentially influencing performance were excluded, thus considering only subjects with BALF cytology consistent with MEA. A sample of 30 horses (3.4 ± 1.0 years old) was selected. The relationship between BALF inflammatory cell differential count and VLA4 was evaluated by means of linear regression. Statistical analysis showed a significant relation (p = 0.015, r2 = 0.19) between the increase in the differential count of neutrophils in BALF and the decrease in VLA4. The results obtained suggested that the accumulation of neutrophils in the airways of MEA horses may have a direct impact on athletic capacity, possibly due to impaired alveolar blood-gas exchanges during strenuous exercise. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Horse as an Athlete: Sports Medicine, Rehabilitation and Wellness)
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11 pages, 3287 KiB  
Article
A Radiographic Technique for Assessment of Morphologic Variations of the Equine Caudal Cervical Spine
by Christine Gee, Alison Small, Kathleen Shorter and Wendy Y. Brown
Animals 2020, 10(4), 667; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10040667 - 12 Apr 2020
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 22939
Abstract
Equine Caudal Cervical Morphologic Variation (ECCMV) is a congenital malformation of the caudal cervical spine distinct from the more commonly recognized Cervical Vertebral Stenotic Myelopathy (CVSM). The most common presentation of ECCMV is recognized on the sixth cervical vertebra (C6). In “normal” presentations, [...] Read more.
Equine Caudal Cervical Morphologic Variation (ECCMV) is a congenital malformation of the caudal cervical spine distinct from the more commonly recognized Cervical Vertebral Stenotic Myelopathy (CVSM). The most common presentation of ECCMV is recognized on the sixth cervical vertebra (C6). In “normal” presentations, the transverse processes on the left and right sides have a caudal lamina projecting ventrally below the caudal vertebral body in a heel shape. With ECCMV, variations occur to the structure of the caudal ventral lamina on one or both sides of C6 and may include the seventh cervical (C7) and first thoracic (T1) vertebrae and ribs, in varying configurations. Whereas the prevalence of ECCMV is not known, it has been recognized for many years and has been reported to occur with relatively high frequency within multiple populations of domesticated horses. To date, there is no documented link between the occurrence of ECCMV and clinical signs. However, based on retrospective studies, multiple authors have recognized the potential impact on performance that this condition may have. Establishing a reliable radiographic protocol for the consistent diagnosis of ECCMV would allow quantitative, scientific evaluation of the problem and support clinicians working in this field. We present a radiographic technique, which has been illustrated by diagnosis of ECCMV in three horses and confirmation of the diagnoses in two cases via postmortem examination. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Horse as an Athlete: Sports Medicine, Rehabilitation and Wellness)
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13 pages, 1380 KiB  
Article
Combined Effects of Water Depth and Velocity on the Accelerometric Parameters Measured in Horses Exercised on a Water Treadmill
by Aritz Saitua, Mireya Becero, David Argüelles, Cristina Castejón-Riber, Antonia Sánchez de Medina, Katy Satué and Ana Muñoz
Animals 2020, 10(2), 236; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10020236 - 3 Feb 2020
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 3106
Abstract
Horse trainers often claim that exercise on a water treadmill (WT) leads to a greater muscle power and development compared to terrestrial locomotion, because of the greater viscosity of water compared to air. This research assesses locomotor changes measured with accelerometers fixed in [...] Read more.
Horse trainers often claim that exercise on a water treadmill (WT) leads to a greater muscle power and development compared to terrestrial locomotion, because of the greater viscosity of water compared to air. This research assesses locomotor changes measured with accelerometers fixed in the pectoral region and in the sacrum midline in six horses subjected to exercise sessions of 40 min duration on a WT without water (DT), and with water at the depth of fetlock (FET) and carpus (CAR) with velocities of 6 km/h and at the depth of stifle (STF) at 5 km/h. Another five horses performed the same exercise sessions but always with a velocity of 5 km/h. Total power increased from DT to FET and CAR, without significant differences between CAR and STF depths when the velocity was the same. However, a significant decrease was found when the velocity was reduced. The greater total power with water was distributed mainly to the dorsoventral axis, with significant increases in dorsoventral displacement and dorsoventral power. Both parameters were significantly affected by velocity and water depth. In conclusion, total and dorsoventral powers increased with velocity and water depth, leading to reduction in longitudinal and mediolateral power, during exercise on a WT. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Horse as an Athlete: Sports Medicine, Rehabilitation and Wellness)
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14 pages, 676 KiB  
Article
Generation of Domains for the Equine Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation Outcome Score: Development by Expert Consensus
by Gillian Tabor, Kathryn Nankervis, John Fernandes and Jane Williams
Animals 2020, 10(2), 203; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10020203 - 25 Jan 2020
Cited by 11 | Viewed by 4650
Abstract
Outcome measures (OMs) are a requirement of professional practice standards in human and canine physiotherapy practice for measurement of health status. Measures such as pain and functional capacity of specific regions are used to track treatment impact and can be used to develop [...] Read more.
Outcome measures (OMs) are a requirement of professional practice standards in human and canine physiotherapy practice for measurement of health status. Measures such as pain and functional capacity of specific regions are used to track treatment impact and can be used to develop optimal management strategies. To achieve comparable patient care in equine physiotherapy, OMs must be incorporated into practice; however, no reliable and valid OMs exist for equine rehabilitation. This study utilised the experience and opinion of a panel of experts working in the equine rehabilitation sphere to gain consensus on the core areas (domains) to be included in a model, to lead to an OM scale for horses undergoing rehabilitation. The Delphi method and content validity ratio testing was used to determine agreement with domains reaching the critical value required for inclusion. The expert panel agreed on ten domains to be included in the OM scale: lameness, pain at rest, pain during exercise, behaviour during exercise, muscular symmetry, performance/functional capacity, behaviour at rest, palpation, balance and proprioception. An OM with these domains would provide a holistic objective assessment tool which could be used by equine rehabilitation professionals in clinical practice. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Horse as an Athlete: Sports Medicine, Rehabilitation and Wellness)
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22 pages, 4066 KiB  
Article
The Effect of Tree Width on Thoracolumbar and Limb Kinematics, Saddle Pressure Distribution, and Thoracolumbar Dimensions in Sports Horses in Trot and Canter
by Russell MacKechnie-Guire, Erik MacKechnie-Guire, Vanessa Fairfax, Diana Fisher, Mark Fisher and Thilo Pfau
Animals 2019, 9(10), 842; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9100842 - 21 Oct 2019
Cited by 13 | Viewed by 6885
Abstract
This study evaluated the effect of saddle tree width on thoracolumbar and limb kinematics, saddle pressure distribution, and thoracolumbar epaxial musculature dimensions. Correctly fitted saddles were fitted by a Society of Master Saddler Qualified Saddle Fitter in fourteen sports horses (mean ± SD [...] Read more.
This study evaluated the effect of saddle tree width on thoracolumbar and limb kinematics, saddle pressure distribution, and thoracolumbar epaxial musculature dimensions. Correctly fitted saddles were fitted by a Society of Master Saddler Qualified Saddle Fitter in fourteen sports horses (mean ± SD age 12 ± 8.77 years, height 1.65 ± 0.94 m), and were altered to one width fitting wider and narrower. Horses were equipped with skin markers, inertial measurement units, and a pressure mat beneath the saddle. Differences in saddle pressure distribution, as well as limb and thoracolumbosacral kinematics between saddle widths were investigated using a general linear model with Bonferroni adjusted alpha (p ≤ 0.05). Compared with the correct saddle width, in trot, in the wide saddle, an 8.5% increase in peak pressures was found in the cranial region of the saddle (p = 0.003), a 14% reduction in thoracolumbar dimensions at T13 (p = 0.02), and a 6% decrease in the T13 range of motion in the mediolateral direction (p = 0.02). In the narrow saddle, a 14% increase in peak pressures was found in the caudal region of the saddle (p = 0.01), an 8% decrease in the range of motion of T13 in the mediolateral direction (p = 0.004), and a 6% decrease in the vertical direction (p = 0.004) of T13. Compared with the correct saddle width, in canter, in the wide saddle, axial rotation decreased by 1% at T5 (p = 0.03) with an 5% increase at T13 (p = 0.04) and a 5% increase at L3 (p = 0.03). Peak pressures increased by 4% (p = 0.002) in the cranial region of the wide saddle. Altering the saddle fit had an effect on thoracolumbar kinematics and saddle pressure distribution; hence, correct saddle fit is essential to provide unhindered locomotion. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Horse as an Athlete: Sports Medicine, Rehabilitation and Wellness)
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11 pages, 241 KiB  
Article
Characteristics of Endurance Competitions and Risk Factors for Elimination in New Zealand during Six Seasons of Competition (2010/11–2015/16)
by Kylie A. Legg, Jenny. F. Weston, Erica K. Gee, Charlotte F. Bolwell, Janis P. Bridges and Chris W. Rogers
Animals 2019, 9(9), 611; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9090611 - 27 Aug 2019
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 2340
Abstract
The welfare of horses in endurance competitions has been the focus of recent media attention. Epidemiological studies have examined the sport at the international (FEI) level. However, much of the participation in the sport occurs at a national level in preparation for FEI [...] Read more.
The welfare of horses in endurance competitions has been the focus of recent media attention. Epidemiological studies have examined the sport at the international (FEI) level. However, much of the participation in the sport occurs at a national level in preparation for FEI level competition. The aims of this study were to describe participation in, and risk factors for elimination, from New Zealand endurance competitions. Data were collated from all endurance competitions (≥40 km) held in New Zealand during the 2010/11–2015/16 competition seasons. There were 6885 starts (n = 775 horses, n = 665 riders), horses had a median age of 9 years (IQR 6.2–10.0) and had a median of 3 (IQR 2–5) starts per season. Accumulated ride distance per season per horse decreased from a median of 240 km/horse (IQR 120–440) in 2010/11 to 180 km/horse (IQR 80–320) in 2015/16. Ride entries were dominated by the 40 km (n = 2834, 41%) and 80 km (n = 2517, 37%) distances. Eliminations increased with ride distance, from 7% in 40 km rides to 53% in the 160 km rides. Lameness accounted for the majority of eliminations (64%). The odds of elimination due to lameness were significantly associated with ride distance, location (North or South island) and time of year. The 11% of starters eliminated for metabolic reasons of the horse had increased odds of elimination associated with horse age, ride distance, location and time of year. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Horse as an Athlete: Sports Medicine, Rehabilitation and Wellness)
10 pages, 567 KiB  
Article
Clinical Effects of the Extract of the Seeds of the Indian Celery—Apium graveolens—In Horses Affected by Chronic Osteoarthritis
by Beatrice Battaglia, Mario Angelone, Elena Vera, Giuseppina Basini, Simona Bussolati, Massimiliano Paci, Maurizio Del Bue, Raffaella Aldigeri, Stefano Grolli, Fausto Quintavalla and Roberto Ramoni
Animals 2019, 9(8), 585; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9080585 - 20 Aug 2019
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 4163
Abstract
The extract of the seeds from Indian celery, Apium greaveolens (CSE), tested in experimental animals (rodents), and in humans affected by chronic osteoarthritic diseases, exhibits anti-inflammatory effects that can be compared, to some degree, to those of non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID). In view [...] Read more.
The extract of the seeds from Indian celery, Apium greaveolens (CSE), tested in experimental animals (rodents), and in humans affected by chronic osteoarthritic diseases, exhibits anti-inflammatory effects that can be compared, to some degree, to those of non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID). In view of a potential use of CSE in the equine species, it was tested on horses affected by chronic articular pathologies. The trial was performed on 20 horses divided into three different groups, orally treated with 0 (controls), 7.0 or 30 g of CSE BID. Basic orthopedic examinations were conducted, vital signs were observed, and blood samples collected. Improvement was observed at the highest dosage tested (30 g of CSE BID), as reflected in the score values of three clinical parameters, (i) amplitude and (ii) sensitivity to passive flexion and (iii) flexion test. Since the improvement of these parameters can be correlated with a lower perception of the pain, the present data suggest that the CSE treatment can have an analgesic effect in horses affected by chronic osteoarthritic diseases. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Horse as an Athlete: Sports Medicine, Rehabilitation and Wellness)
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16 pages, 411 KiB  
Article
Variance in Stallion Semen Quality among Equestrian Sporting Disciplines and Competition Levels
by Megan Wilson, Jess Williams, V. Tamara Montrose and Jane Williams
Animals 2019, 9(8), 485; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9080485 - 25 Jul 2019
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 4097
Abstract
Most stallions within breeding programmes are expected to breed and compete concurrently. The exercising of stallions with regards to training regimes during the breeding season is a controversial subject. Daily exercise at low intensities is important for the mental and reproductive well-being of [...] Read more.
Most stallions within breeding programmes are expected to breed and compete concurrently. The exercising of stallions with regards to training regimes during the breeding season is a controversial subject. Daily exercise at low intensities is important for the mental and reproductive well-being of the stallion, however higher intensities of exercise, as seen in competing stallions, may have detrimental effects on seminal quality. To calculate if competition does affect semen quality, this study investigated the effect that equestrian discipline and timing of competition had on a range of stallion semen characteristics. This was a retrospective study that evaluated the seminal data of 1130 stallion semen collections from two UK based stud farms between 2009 and 2016. Competing stallion semen quality was significantly lower with regards to concentration (p < 0.05) and progressive motility (p < 0.05) than non-competing stallions. Semen volume was higher in competing stallions (p < 0.05) than non-competing stallions. There was a significant difference in seminal attributes among disciplines and competition levels (p < 0.05). The difference in semen quality among competing and non-competing stallions, as well as the difference among disciplines suggests endocrinological and physiological changes occur in relation to training intensity and competition. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Horse as an Athlete: Sports Medicine, Rehabilitation and Wellness)
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9 pages, 727 KiB  
Article
The Spatiotemporal Characteristics of 0–24-Goal Polo
by Russ Best and Regan Standing
Animals 2019, 9(7), 446; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9070446 - 16 Jul 2019
Cited by 13 | Viewed by 3508
Abstract
Global positioning systems (GPS) have recently been shown to reliably quantify the spatiotemporal characteristics of Polo, with the physiological demands of Polo play at low- and high-goal levels also investigated. This study aims to describe the spatiotemporal demands of Polo across 0–24 goal [...] Read more.
Global positioning systems (GPS) have recently been shown to reliably quantify the spatiotemporal characteristics of Polo, with the physiological demands of Polo play at low- and high-goal levels also investigated. This study aims to describe the spatiotemporal demands of Polo across 0–24 goal levels. A player-worn GPS unit was used to quantify distance, speed and high-intensity activities performed. Data were divided into chukkas and five equine-based speed zones, grouped per cumulative player handicap and assessed using standardized mean differences. Average distance and speed per chukka increased in accordance with cumulative player handicap, with the magnitude of differences being trivial–large and trivial–very large, respectively. Differences between time spent in high-intensity speed zones (zones 4 and 5) show a linear increase in magnitude, when comparing 0 goal Polo to all other levels of play (Small–Very Large; 6–24 goals, respectively). High-intensity activities predominantly shared this trend, displaying trivial–large differences between levels. These findings highlight increased cardiovascular, anaerobic and speed based physiological demands on Polo ponies as playing level increases. Strategies such as high-intensity interval training, maximal speed work and aerobic conditioning may be warranted to facilitate this development and improve pony welfare and performance. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Horse as an Athlete: Sports Medicine, Rehabilitation and Wellness)
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Review

Jump to: Research

27 pages, 735 KiB  
Review
Mouth Pain in Horses: Physiological Foundations, Behavioural Indices, Welfare Implications, and a Suggested Solution
by David J. Mellor
Animals 2020, 10(4), 572; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10040572 - 29 Mar 2020
Cited by 30 | Viewed by 19307
Abstract
A proposition addressed here is that, although bitted horses are viewed by many equestrians as being largely free of bit-related mouth pain, it seems likely that most behavioural signs of such pain are simply not recognised. Background information is provided on the following: [...] Read more.
A proposition addressed here is that, although bitted horses are viewed by many equestrians as being largely free of bit-related mouth pain, it seems likely that most behavioural signs of such pain are simply not recognised. Background information is provided on the following: the major features of pain generation and experience; cerebrocortical involvement in the conscious experience of pain by mammals; the numerous other subjective experiences mammals can have; adjunct physiological responses to pain; some general feature of behavioural responses to pain; and the neural bases of sensations generated within the mouth. Mouth pain in horses is then discussed. The areas considered exclude dental disease, but they include the stimulation of pain receptors by bits in the interdental space, the tongue, the commissures of the mouth, and the buccal mucosa. Compression, laceration, inflammation, impeded tissue blood flow, and tissue stretching are evaluated as noxious stimuli. The high pain sensitivity of the interdental space is described, as are likely increases in pain sensitivity due to repeated bit contact with bruises, cuts, tears, and/or ulcers wherever they are located in the mouth. Behavioural indices of mouth pain are then identified by contrasting the behaviours of horses when wearing bitted bridles, when changed from bitted to bit-free bridles, and when free-roaming unbitted in the wild. Observed indicative behaviours involve mouth movements, head-neck position, and facial expression (“pain face”), as well as characteristic body movements and gait. The welfare impacts of bit-related pain include the noxiousness of the pain itself as well as likely anxiety when anticipating the pain and fear whilst experiencing it, especially if the pain is severe. In addition, particular mouth behaviours impede airflow within the air passages of the upper respiratory system, effects that, in their turn, adversely affect the air passages in the lungs. Here, they increase airflow resistance and decrease alveolar gas exchange, giving rise to suffocating experiences of breathlessness. In addition, breathlessness is a likely consequence of the low jowl angles commonly maintained during dressage. If severe, as with pain, the prospect of breathlessness is likely to give rise to anxiety and the direct experience of breathlessness to fear. The related components of welfare compromise therefore likely involve pain, breathlessness, anxiety, and fear. Finally, a 12-point strategy is proposed to give greater impetus to a wider adoption of bit-free bridles in order to avoid bit-induced mouth pain. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Horse as an Athlete: Sports Medicine, Rehabilitation and Wellness)
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