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First Posted: Oct 10, 2013
Oct 10, 2013

Improved Ability to Maintain Fitness in Horses During Large Pasture Turnout

Volume 33, Issue 8 , Pages 581-585, August 2013.
Patricia M. Graham-Thiers, PhD
L. Kristen Bowen, BA
Equine Studies Dept. Virginia Intermont College, Bristol, VA
Received 12 June 2012; received in revised form 27 August 2012; accepted 5 September 2012. published online 12 November 2012.

Abstract

The objective was to compare horses' maintenance of fitness during extended periods of no forced exercise with that after stall confinement. Horses were divided into three groups: pasture turnout (P), stalled and exercised (E), or stalled with no exercise (S). Pre- and post-study body fat and bone mineral content were estimated, and horses performed a standardized exercise test (SET). Horses wore global positioning units to estimate distance traveled. The P group traveled a greater distance daily compared with the E and S groups (P < .01). Lateral bone density was greater for the P group after the study (P = .05). Comparing first and second SETs, the P group had lower heart rates at the trot (P < .01) and hand-gallop (P = .028), the E group had lower heart rates at the hand-gallop (P < .01), and the S group had higher 1-minute recovery heart rates (P < .01). Plasma lactate concentrations were higher at the peak of exercise (P < .01) and 10-minute recovery (P = .015) for the S group, whereas the P and E groups had lower rectal temperature at the peak of exercise (P = .029) and 10-minute recovery (P = .031 and P = .041, respectively). These data suggest that the S group lost fitness, whereas the P group remained as fit as the E group. The improvement for the P group compared with the E or S group was greater bone mineral content. Access to pasture appears to help maintain bone strength and exercise fitness ability.

For More Information:

Study: Horses Able to Stay Fit When Kept at Pasture

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