Endurance Horse Study Reveals Common Complaints, Resolutions

A lot of things can happen over the many miles of an endurance event. California veterinarians recently tracked the incidence and resolution of equine medical issues encountered during endurance competition.

C. Langdon Fielding, DVM, Dipl. ACVECC, of the Loomis Basin Equine Medical Center in California, and colleagues, looked at the records of 30 horses that required emergency treatment after being removed from endurance competition.

Some of the issues the researchers encountered included colic, esophageal obstruction (choke), poor cardiovascular recovery, myopathy, and synchronous diaphragmatic flutter (thumps). They studied the horses' examination, lab work, age, breed, and other parameters to see if they could spot specific indicators that could help them catch the problem earlier.

They found specific equine health problems tended to occur at different times during the ride. For example, horses with rhabdomyolysis (muscle damage) usually had the problem in the first 30 miles of the competition.

"Hopefully this will help people watch for specific problems at certain times," Fielding said.

Although they were unable to identify risk factors that would identify horses likely to develop a problem during the competition, they found that horses that were eliminated had lower potassium and chloride levels during the ride.

"We will need more research though to determine whether supplementing these electrolytes would improve the problems," he said.

They also found immediate veterinary treatment helped eliminated horses to recover from their primary complaints more quickly.

"I don't think our study will change the veterinarian's evaluation, but one of the biggest messages that we wanted to convey is that early and appropriate treatment resolved the problems in all of these horses," Fielding noted.

The study "Clinical and biochemical abnormalities in endurance horses eliminated from competition for medical complications and requiring emergency medical treatment: 30 cases (2005-2006)," was published in October in the Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care. The abstract is available on PubMed.

About the Author

Marie Rosenthal, MS

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