Researchers at Utrecht University in the Netherlands have succeeded in diagnosing equine overtraining syndrome by measuring nocturnal growth hormone secretion.
Dr Ellen de Graaf-Roelfsema and colleagues conducted the study in conjunction with researchers at Maastricht University, the Free University of Brussels and the University of Virginia (USA).
The study involved twelve Standardbred geldings (average 20 months old) - trained in pairs. Both horses in the pair were managed identically apart from their exercise regime. One was trained normally, the other received an intensified training schedule.
“The intensively trained group clearly showed a loss of performance, indicative for over-reaching or maybe even over training.” Dr Graaf-Roelfsema reports.
"We were able to distinguish between overtrained and control horses by evaluation of their nocturnal GH secretion pattern. However, it is a very labor intensive method and not very practical to use for the individual patient. We are working on that right now."