|More than 21,000 participants are expected this year, according to International Federation for Equestrian Sports, which governs the sport. The sport is slated to see roughly 400 events in 2005 compared to 350 in 2004.
`Eventually, you are going to treat an endurance horse, but if you don`t know what went wrong, then how will you know how to treat them?` asked Dane L. Frazier, DVM, proprietor of Terra Vet Services and director of various local, state, national and international endurance horse organizations.
He examined metabolic problems in the endurance horse during several Western Veterinary Conference sessions on Sunday.
Endurance rides are events in which the same horse and rider cover a specified course of not less than 50 miles nor more than 150 miles within a maximum time limit, usually 12 hours per 50 miles. About 60 percent of participants finish 100-mile rides, and about 50 percent finish more rigorous international competitions, Frazier says.
Of the more-rigorous, international competitions that typically consist of very challenging 100-mile events, veterinarians should plan on administering invasive treatment (of at least rehydration) to 10-20 percent of horses, and about 1 percent can die because of the ride, which might cause accidental deaths as well as metabolic conditions.
`By any measure, we would say that endurance is an extreme sport,` Frazier says. `But you cannot predict who will have problems based on the distance of the ride or the speed in which the horses run.`
The fundamental problem of why endurance horses go south is because horses get hot, and it must regulate its body temperature, mainly through perspiration and heightened respiratory activity, Frazier says.
The resulting metabolic stresses of energy depletion, dehydration, electrolyte loss and acid-base balance changes put the animal at risk for colic, exertional rhabdomyolysis, synchronous diaphragmatic flutter and exhausted-horse syndrome.
Sweating is the predominant mechanism for fluid loss. Endurance horses can lose 100 pounds of body weight composed of primarily body water in 24 hours on a 100-mile ride. Thus, assessing dehydration is crucial when treating an endurance horse.
Ways to gauge dehydration are:
- Capillary refill time below the teeth
- Jugular refill time
- Skin tenting, which should be measured at the point of the shoulder and not the neck. `The neck will trick you,` Frazier says.
In addition to water, endurance horses lose sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and chloride in their sweat, so replenishing electrolytes also is important.
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