Monday, January 21, 2008

Cold Weather Conditioning

Yesterday, it was quite cold here in Middle Tennessee. My outdoor thermometer never reached above 27 degrees F. I was scheduled to ride with a friend, but opted out because of the cold. I reasoned I would ride on Monday since it was supposed to be warmer. However, it is still cold and I began to research riding my horse in cold weather.

I found the following PubMed abstract regarding exercising horses in cold weather.

Airway cooling and mucosal injury during cold weather exercise

I could barely read that, so I paraphrased it for my own edification.

Humans who exercise in cold weather can experience cold airways, dryness and injury to the esophagus. We thought that horses might experience injury to the esophagus as well.

So we decided to test this. We put a tube down the horse's trachea with a thermometer on the end. We then had 3 horses canter on a treadmill at 15 mph while breathing 41 degree F air. The mean temperature of the horses' airway temp while cantering was 92 degrees F. This is similar to a person running while breathing sub-freeing dry air.

For the next experiment, we took 6 fit racehorses to see if hard exercise in cold weather would cause injury. Some were in the experiment. Some were control animals. We had the experiment horses gallop for 30 minutes in 40 degree F weather. The control horses were allowed to rest for 48 hours. Then we took fluid from the horses' lungs and looked at it. We found certain cells in the exercised horses' fluid were higher than those in the control horses. This is similar to humans and lab animals when similar experiments were conducted.

This suggests that, like people, horses that exercise in cold weather can have their airways damaged due to the cold air. This also suggests that airway cooling and drying may be a factor in airway inflammation often found in equine athletes.

End of paraphrase.

While I don't often go out and gallop for 30 minutes, this suggests to me that when riding in temps below 40 degrees F, I should be careful how hard I ask my horse to work.

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