Friday, April 27, 2012

Benefits of early training


New research suggests that exercise early in life benefits musculoskeletal health. It may even have a positive impact on the future racing careers of Thoroughbred horses.

A study, published in the Equine Veterinary Journal, looked at the association of two-year-old training milestones with career length and racing success in a sample of 4683 Thoroughbred horses in New Zealand.

The study found that horses that raced as two-year-olds had significantly more race starts during their careers from three-years-old onwards than those that raced first as three-year-olds or older. Horses that raced as two-year-olds had significantly longer racing careers.

Horses registered with a trainer, trialled or raced as two-year-olds were more likely to have won or been placed in a race than those that achieved these milestones as three-year-olds or older. In addition, horses that first trialled and raced as two-year-olds had greater total earnings than those that first trialled or raced at a later age.


Screening for FIS


Researchers at the Animal Health Trust, Newmarket, have published the results of their work screening endangered horse breeds for the genetic mutation that is responsible for Foal Immunodeficiency Syndrome (FIS).

The good news is that, despite Fell and Dales ponies having been interbred with other breeds, there appears to have been only limited transmission of the defective gene to those other breeds.

The defective gene was found to be widespread in the Fell pony population, being found in 38% of individuals tested. It was found less frequently in Dales ponies (18%).

Researchers also looked at other breeds that had recently interbred with Fell and Dales ponies (Clydesdale, Coloured, Exmoor, Highland, Part-Bred WelshSecD and Welsh Sec D). The defect was only identified in coloured (“Gypsy”) cobs and then only at a low level (1%).


Dieting horses eat bedding

It is no surprise that ponies on a restricted diet resort to eating their bedding. Wood shavings are often suggested as an inedible bedding material, to discourage such behaviour. However, recent research suggests shavings may not be as unpalatable as generally supposed.

In fact, horses and ponies on a severely restricted diet may actually consume considerable quantities of wood shavings, as research conducted at Liverpool University Veterinary School demonstrated.

Figures obtained during the study suggested that at least half of the animals had been supplementing their diet from an alternative “non-feed” source. Almost half (5/12) appeared to have consumed over 1kg of wood shavings a day.

Although some ponies had eaten negligible amounts of shavings, others appeared to have eaten more than 3kg a day.


Monday, April 02, 2012

Racing in the slipstream

Sitting in the slipstream of frontrunners is a winning strategy for jockeys, according to new research.


A detailed study of almost 45,000 racehorses has shown that horses that tuck in closely behind frontrunners during races are most likely to come out on top.

The research, from Dr Andrew Spence at the Royal Veterinary College, London, and published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters, demonstrates that just as an F1 driver might sit in the slipstream of the car in front, jockeys who deploy this tactic are most likely to have an advantage on competitors when it comes to winning a race

Dr Spence, working with Professor Alan Wilson and colleagues at the Structure and Motion Laboratory, used a unique data set from thoroughbred horse racing to find out just what tactics work. They determined the position and speed of 44,803 racehorses, once per second, in 3,357 races ranging in length from 1006 to 4225m (50.9–292.9 seconds duration) using a validated radio tracking system. They discovered that reducing aerodynamic drag by moving close behind other competitors had a marked effect on horse performance, and hence racing outcome.


Read more at:

Choosing where to roll


Kanji Matsui and colleagues investigated the benefits of providing specific rolling areas for grazing horses.

Their study “Do horses prefer certain substrates for rolling in grazing pasture?” was published in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science. The work was carried out at the Education and Research Center of Alpine Field Science, Faculty of Agriculture, at Shinshu university.

Four native Japanese Kiso horses were included in the study. The researchers observed the horses' behaviour in paddocks with and without rolling areas made of different substrates.

Two experimental paddocks were available for grazing, each 120 x 60 metres. One paddock , (the control) contained pasture only; the other contained three rolling areas – each 5 x 5 metres - made of  dry soil, sand or straw.

The researchers found that horses tended to roll more often, but for less time overall, in the rolling paddock compared with the control paddock. The difference, however, was not significant.

Horses spent significantly less time rolling in the rolling paddock than they did in the control paddock. Most of the rolling took place in the constructed rolling areas..

According to the researchers this indicates the absolute preference of horses for rolling areas. ”Thus, building rolling areas encourages horses to roll in these contained areas, thereby reducing damage to pasture.”


The horses appeared to prefer rolling on the dry soil area, rather than on either the sand or straw.

The researchers conclude that “offering a rolling area encourages horses to roll in these areas and keeps the pasture in good condition.” They point out that it also allows an increase in grazing time, which reduces the need for supplementary feed.

They recommend that rolling areas be provided in  pasture for horses and that these rolling areas be constructed of soil.