Welfare of the Racehorse During Exercise Training and Racing

  • D. L. Evans
Part of the Animal Welfare book series (AWNS, volume 1)


The welfare of horses in training for racing and competition can be compromised by errors of management of many processes. Lameness is usually identified, as the major problem facing horse trainers and high lameness rates in racehorses is a major welfare concern. Recent epidemiological studies have shed light on important environmental risk factors for lameness and catastrophic incidents during training and racing. Another important threat to the welfare of the athletic horse is failure of appropriate preparation of the horse for competition, resulting in earlier fatigue during a race. Fatigue during racing causes sub-optimal performance, increases the likelihood of injury and, in prolonged exercise contributes to exhaustion and even death. Failure to allow appropriate recovery periods after episodes of training and competition also contributes to a state of chronic fatigue. Trainers recognise that affected horses (or ‘stale’ horses) often have mood disturbances and are reluctant to exercise. Continued excessive training and inadequate recovery (termed, over-training) can result in weight loss and poor performance that is not reversed by short-term recovery periods. In events involving prolonged exercise, the performance and welfare of the horse are compromised by inappropriate fluid balance before and during exercise. Failure to properly prepare and maintain fluid balance of endurance horses results in a severe threat to welfare. Pronounced dehydration and hyperthermia can result in exhaustion and death.


Blood Lactate Concentration Metacarpal Bone Sprint Training Swimming Training Thoroughbred Horse 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bailey, C.J. (1998) Wastage in the Australian Thoroughbred Racing Industry. Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, Canberra, Australia.Google Scholar
  2. Boston, R.C. and Nunamaker, D.M. (2000) Gait an speed as exercise components of risk factors associated with onset of fatigue injury of the third metacarpal bone in 2-year-old Thoroughbred racehorses. American J. Veterinary Research 61, 602–608.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bourke, J.M. (1995) Wastage in Thoroughbreds. Proceedings of Annual Seminar of the Equine Branch of New Zealand Veterinary Association, pp. 107–119.Google Scholar
  4. Brunker, P., Bennell, K. and Matheson, G. (1999) Stress Fractures. Blackwell Science Asia, Carlton, Victoria, Australia.Google Scholar
  5. Buckingham, S.H.W, and Jeffcott, L.B. (1990) Shin soreness: a survey of Thoroughbred trainers and racetrack veterinarians. Australian Equine Veterinarian 8, 148–153.Google Scholar
  6. Carrier, T.K., Estberg, L., Stover, S.M., Gardner, I.A., Johnson, B.J., Read, D.H. and Ardans, A.A. (1998) Association between long periods without high-speed workouts and risk of complete humeral or pelvic fracture in thoroughbred racehorses-54 cases (1991-1994). J. American Veterinary Medical Association 212, 1582–1587.Google Scholar
  7. Cohen, N.D., Berry, S.M., Peloso, J.G., Mundy, G.D. and Howard, I.C. (2000) Thoroughbred race-horses that sustain injury accumulate accumulate less high speed exercise compared to horses without injury in Kentucky. Proceedings 46th Annual Convention of the American Association Equine Practitioners 46, 51–53.Google Scholar
  8. Davies, H.M.S. (1996) The effects of different exercise conditions on metacarpal bone strains in Thoroughbred racehorses. Pferdeheilkunde 12, 666–670.Google Scholar
  9. Davies, H.M., Gale, S.M. and Baker, I.D.C. (1999) Radiographic measures of bone shape in young Thoroughbreds during training for racing. Equine Veterinary J. Suppl. 30, 262–265.Google Scholar
  10. D’sterdieck, K.F., Schott, H.C., Eberhart, S.W., Woody, K.A. and Coenen, M. (1999) Electrolyte and glycerol supplementation improve water intake by horses performing a simulated 60 km endurance ride. Equine Veterinary J. Supplement 30, 418–424.Google Scholar
  11. Estberg, L., Gardner, I.A., Stover, S.M., and Johnson, B.J. (1998) A case-crossover study of intensive racing and training schedules and risk of catastrophic musculoskeletal injury and lay-up in California thoroughbred racehorses. Preventive Veterinary Medicine 33, 159–170PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Eaton, M.D., Evans, D.L., Hodgson, D.R., and Rose, R.J. (1995) Maximal accumulated oxygen deficit in thoroughbred horses. J. Applied Physiology 78, 1564–1568.Google Scholar
  13. Evans, D.L. and Walsh, J.S. (1997) Effect of increasing the banking of a racetrack on the occurrence of injury and lameness in Standardbred horses. Australian Veterinary J. 75, 751–752.Google Scholar
  14. Firth, E.C., Rogers, C.W. and Goodship, A.E. (2000) Bone mineral density changes in growing and training Thoroughbreds. Proceedings of the 46th Annual Convention of the American Association of Equine Practitioners 46, 295–299.Google Scholar
  15. Fredricson, I., Dalin, G., Drevemo, S., Hjerten, G. and Alm, L.O. (1975a) A biotechnical approach to the geometric design of racetracks. Equine Veterinary J. 7, 91–96.Google Scholar
  16. Fredricson, I., Dalin, G., Drevemo, S., Hjerten, G. and Alm, L.O. (1975b) Ergonomic aspects of poor racetrack design. Equine Veterinary J. 7, 63–65.Google Scholar
  17. Hernandez, J., Hawkins, D.L. and Scollay, M.C. (2001) Race-start characteristics and risk of cata-strophic musculoskeletal injury in Thoroughbred racehorses. J. American Veterinary Medical Association 218, 83–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Geor, R.J., MsCutcheon, L.J. and Lindinger, M.I. (1996) Adaptations to daily exercise in hot and humid ambient conditions in trained Thoroughbred horses. Equine Veterinary J. Suppl. 22, 63–68.Google Scholar
  19. Geor, R.J. and McCutcheon, L.J. (1998) Hydration effects on physiological strain of horses during exercise-heat stress. J. Applied Physiology 84, 2042–2051.Google Scholar
  20. Golland, L.C., Evans, D.L., Stone, G.M., Tyler-McGowan, C.M., Hodgson, D.R. and Rose, R.J. (1999) Plasma cortisol and B-endorphin concentrations in trained and overtrained Standardbred racehorses. Pflugers Archiv-European J. Physiology 439, 11–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gottliebvedi, M., Persson, S., Erickson, H. and Korbutiak, E. (1995) Cardiovascular, respiratory and metabolic effects of interval training at vla4. J. Veterinary Medicine-Series A 42, 165–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gysin, J., Isler, R. and Straub, R. (1987) Evaluation of performance capacity and definition of training intensity using heart rate and blood lactate measurements. Pferdeheilkunde 3, 193.Google Scholar
  23. Jansson, A., and Dahlborn, K. (1999) Effects of feeding frequency and voluntary salt intake on fluid and electrolyte regulation in athletic horses. J. Applied Physiology 86, 1610–1616.Google Scholar
  24. Jeffcott, L.B., Rossdale, P.D., Freestone, J., Frank, C.J. and Towers-Clark, P.F. (1982). An assessment of wastage in Thoroughbred racing from conception to 4 years of age. Equine Veterinary J. 14, 185–198.Google Scholar
  25. Jeffcott, L.B., Buckingham, S.H., McCarthy, R.N., Cleeland, J.C., Scotti, E. and McCartney, R.N. (1988) Non-invasive measurement of bone: a review of clinical and research applications in the horse. Equine Veterinary J. Suppl. 6, 71–79.Google Scholar
  26. Jeffcott, L.B. and Kohn, C.W. (1999) Contributions of exercise physiology research to the success of the 1996 Equestrian Olympic Games: a review. Equine Exercise Physiology 5, Equine Veterinary J. Suppl. 30, 347–355.Google Scholar
  27. J.R.A. (1991) Preventing accidents to racehorses: studies and measures taken by the Japan Racing Association, Report of the Committee on the Prevention of Accidents to Racehorses, Japan Racing Association.Google Scholar
  28. Kobluk, C.N., Geor, R.J., King, V.L. and Robinson, R.A. (1996) A case control study of racing Thoroughbreds conditioned on a high-speed treadmill. J. Equine Veterinary Science 16, 511–513.Google Scholar
  29. Lindner, A. and Dingerkus, A. (1993). Incidence of training failure among Thoroughbred horses at Cologne, Germany. Preventative Veterinary Medicine 16, 85–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lovell, D.K. and Rose, R.J. (1991) Changes in skeletal muscle composition in response to interval and high intensity training. Equine Exercise Physiology 3, ICEEP Publications, Davis, Canada, pp. 215–222.Google Scholar
  31. Marlin, D.J., Scott, C.M., Schroter, R.C., Mills, P.C., Harris, R.C., Harris, P.A., Orme, C.E., Roberts, C.A., Marr, C.M., Dyson, S.J. and Barrelet, F. (1996) Physiological responses in nonheat acclimated horses performing treadmill exercise in cool (20 °C/40%RH), hot dry (30 °C/40%RH) and hot humid (30 °C/80%RH). Equine Veterinary Journal. Supplement 22, 70–84.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Mason, T.A. and Bourke, J.M. (1973). Closure of the distal radial epiphysis and its relationship to unsoundness in two year old Thoroughbreds. Australian Veterinary J. 49, 221–228.Google Scholar
  33. McKane and Slocombe (1999) Sequential changes in bronchoalveolar cytology after autologous blood inoculation, Equine Exercise Physiology 5. Equine Veterinary J. Supplement 30, 126–130.Google Scholar
  34. Meyer, T.S., Fedde, M.R., Gaughan, E.M., Langsetmo, I. and Erickson, H.H. (1998) Quantification of exercise-induced pulmonary haemorrhage with bronchoalveolar lavage. Equine Veterinary J. 30, 284–288.Google Scholar
  35. Misumi, K., Sakamoto, H. and Shimizu, R. (1994) The validity of swimming training for 2-year-old thoroughbreds. J. Veterinary Medical Science 56, 217–222.Google Scholar
  36. Moyer, W., Spencer, P.A. and Kallish, M. (1991) Relative incidence of dorsal metacarpal disease in young Thoroughbred racehorses training on two different surfaces. Equine Veterinary J. 23, 166–168.Google Scholar
  37. Moyer, W. and Fisher, J.R.S. (1992) Bucked Shins: Effects of differing track surfaces and proposed training regimes. Proceedings of the 37th Annual Convention of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, 541–547.Google Scholar
  38. Munoz, A., Riber, C., Santisteban, R., Rubio, M.D., Aguera, E.I. and Castejon, F.M. (1999) Cardiovascular and metabolic adaptations in horses competing in cross-country events. J. Veterinary Medical Science 61, 13–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Murakami, M., Imahara, T., Inui, T., Amada, A., Senta, T., Takagi, S., Kubo, K., Sugimoto, O., Watanabe, H., Ikeda, S. and Kameya, T. (1976) Swimming exercises in horses. Experimental Reports Equine Health Laboratory 13, 27–48.Google Scholar
  40. Nielsen, B.D., Potter, G.D., Morris, E.L., Odom, T.W., Senor, M.A., Reynolds, J.A., Smith, W.B. and Martin, M.T. (1997) Changes in the third metacarpal bone and frequency of bone injuries in young quarter horses during race-training-observations and theoretical considerations. J. Equine Veterinary Science 17, 541–549.Google Scholar
  41. Nielsen, B.D., Potter, G.D., Greene, L.W., Morris, E.L., Murraygerzik, M., Smith, W.B. and Martin, M.T. (1998) Response of young horses in training to varying concentrations of dietary calcium and phosphorus. J. Equine Veterinary Science 18, 397–404.Google Scholar
  42. Norwood, G.L. (1978) The bucked-shin complex in Thoroughbreds. Proceedings of the 24th Annual Convention American Association Equine Practitioners, pp. 319–336.Google Scholar
  43. Nunamaker, D. (1996) Stress fractures in Thoroughbred racehorses. Surgery Forum, 1–4.Google Scholar
  44. Physick-Sheard, P.W. (1986) Career profile of the Canadian Standardbred I. Influence of age, gait and sex upon chances of racing. Canadian J. Veterinary Research 50, 449–456.Google Scholar
  45. Pickersgill, C.H. and Reid, S.W.J. (2002a) Musculoskeletal injuries and associated epidemiological risk factors among Thoroughbred racehorses in the UK, in press.Google Scholar
  46. Pickersgill, C.H., Marr, C.M. and Reid, S.W.J. (2002b) The epidemiology of superficial digital flexor tendinitis among National Hunt racehorses in the UK, in press.Google Scholar
  47. Pool, R.R. (1991) Pathology of the metacarpus. Proceedings of the 13th Bain-Fallon Memorial Lectures. Australian Association Equine Practitioners, Sydney, pp. 105–117.Google Scholar
  48. Pool, R.R. and Meagher, D.M. (1990) Pathologic findings and pathogenesis of racetrack injuries. Veterinary Clinics North America: Equine Practice 6, 1–30.Google Scholar
  49. Raidal, S.L., Love, D.N. and Bailey, G.D. (1997a) Effect of a single bout of high intensity exercise on lower respiratory tract contamination in the horse. Australian Veterinary J. 75, 293–295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Raidal, S.L., Bailey, G.D. and Love, D.N. (1997b) Effect of transportation on lower respiratory tract contamination and peripheral blood neutrophil function. Australian Veterinary J. 75, 433–438.Google Scholar
  51. Riggs, C.M. and Evans, G.P. (1990) The microstructural basis of the mechanical properties of equine bone. Equine Veterinary Education 2, 197–205.Google Scholar
  52. Robinson, R.A. and Gordon, B. (1988). American Association of Equine Practitioners track breakdown studies-horse results. Proceedings 7th International Conference of Racing Analysts and Veterinarians, pp. 385–394.Google Scholar
  53. Ross, W.A. and Kaneene, J.B. (1996) An operation-level prospective study of risk factors associated with the incidence density of lameness in Michigan (USA) equine operations. Preventative Veterinary Medicine 28, 209–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Rossdale, P.D., Hopes, R., Wingfield Digby, N.J. and Offord, K. (1985) Epidemiological study of wastage among racehorses 1982 and 1983. Veterinary Record 116, 66–69.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Schamhardt, H.C., Merkens, H.W. and van Osch, G.J.V.M. (1991) Ground reaction force analysis of horses ridden at the walk and trot. Proceedings of the 3rd Equine Exercise Physiology Conference 3, 120–127.Google Scholar
  56. Schott, H.C., McGlade, K.S., Molander, H.A., Leroux, A.J. and Hines, M.T. (1997) Body weight, fluid, electrolyte, and hormonal changes in horses competing in 50-and 100-mile endurance rides. American J. Veterinary Research 58, 303–309.Google Scholar
  57. Schroter, R.C., Marlin, D.J. and Denny, E. (1998) Exercise-induced pulmonary haemorrhage (EIPH) in horses results from locomotory impact induced trauma-a novel, unifying concept. Equine Veterinary J. 30, 186–192.Google Scholar
  58. Sinha, A.K., Ray, S.P. and Rose, R.J. (1991) Effect of training intensity and detraining on adaptations in different skeletal muscles. Equine Exercise Physiology 3, ICEEP Publications, Stockholm, 223–230.Google Scholar
  59. Sosa, Leon, L.A., Hodgson, D.R., Carlson, G.P. and Rose, R.J. (1998) Effects of concentrated electrolytes administered via a paste on fluid, electrolyte and acid base balance in horses. American J. Veterinary Research 59, 898–902.Google Scholar
  60. Snow, D.H., Harris, R.C., Harman, J.C. and Marlin, D.J. (1987) Glycogen repletion following different diets. Equine Exercise Physiology 2, ICEEP Publications, California, pp. 701–710.Google Scholar
  61. Snow, D.H. and Harris, R.C. (1991) Effects of daily exercise on muscle glycogen in the thoroughbred racehorse. Equine Exercise Physiology 3, ICEEP Publications, Stockholm, pp. 299–304.Google Scholar
  62. Stover, S.M., Pool, R.R., Morgan, J.P., Martin, R.B. and Sprayberry, K. (1988) A review of bucked shins and metacarpal stress fractures in the Thoroughbred racehorse. Proceedings of the 34th Annual Convention of the American Association of Equine Practioners 34, 129–136.Google Scholar
  63. van Weeren, P.R., Brama, P.A.J. and Barneveld, A. (2000) Proceedings of the 46th Annual Convention American Association Equine Practitioners 46, 29–35.Google Scholar
  64. Watkins, K.L. (1985) A survey of pre-race veterinary withdrawals and post-race veterinary findings during one racing season in Hong Kong. Proceedings 6th International Conference of Racing Analysts and Veterinarians, pp. 343–346.Google Scholar
  65. West, J.B. and Mathieucostello, O. (1994) Stress failure of the pulmonary capillaries as a mechanism for exercise induced pulmonary haemorrhage in the horse. Equine Veterinary J. 26, 441–447.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Williamson, L.H., White, S., Maykuth, P., Andrews, F., Sommerdahl, C. and Green, E. (1995) Comparison between two post exercise cooling methods. Equine Veterinary J. Supplement 18, 337–340.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. L. Evans
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of Veterinary ScienceUniversity of SydneyAustralia

Personalised recommendations