Malinowski Delivers Presentation on Senior Horse Health

Malinowski Delivers Presentation on Senior Horse Health

Research suggests that more than 15% of the equine population is over the age of 20.

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

Karyn Malinowski PhD, director of the Rutgers Equine Science Center, recently gave an invited lecture during the American Society of Animal Sciences (ASAS) annual meeting in Kansas City, Missouri.

Malinowski's presentation, “Ensuring Good Health and Well-Being of the Aging Equine Population,” included an overview of the horse industry in the United States, which is a $39.2 billion business involving 9.2 million animals and 4.6 million people.

Research suggests that more than 15% of the equine population is over the age of 20 and many of these animals continue to participate in athletic activities. Advanced aging in horses is often associated with declining body condition, muscle tone, aerobic capacity, thermoregulatory ability in response to acute exercise, and overall health.

“The Equine Science Center is the leading authority on the care and well-being of older horses and it is an honor to share our research with other scientists during this year’s ASAS convention,” said Malinowski.

“While aging and obesity-related loss of function and disease have many factors, understanding the underlying imbalance of molecular signaling mediators in metabolically important tissues, such as muscle, to preserve functionality of physiological systems needs to be addressed,” she added.

Advanced age in horses is associated with a decline in immune response and is characterized by increased production of pro-inflammatory cytokines—termed inflammaging—which has been linked to obesity.

She also noted that horses over 20 years of age can improve aerobic performance, reduce body fat, and partially restore changes that occur in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, in response to acute exercise, and insulin sensitivity with regular exercise training.

Further, physiological similarities between humans and horses allow for broad implications of equine exercise physiology research in relation to aging and performance.

“Understanding the molecular mechanisms behind the adaptive response to exercise will aid in the development of exercise conditioning and nutritional strategies meant to preserve the health and well-being of this socio-economically important species,” said Malinowski.

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