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The effect of relaxing massage on heart rate and heart rate variability in purebred Arabian racehorses

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Abstract

The objective of this study was to assess the effect of relaxing massage on the heart rate (HR) and heart rate variability (HRV) in young racehorses during their first racing season. In the study, 72 Purebred Arabian racehorses were included. The study was implemented during the full race season. The horses from control and experimental groups were included in regular race training 6 days a week. The horses from the experimental group were additionally subject to the relaxing massage 3 days a week during the whole study. HR and HRV were assumed as indicators of the emotional state of the horses. The measurements were taken six times, every 4-5 weeks. The HRV parameters were measured at rest, during grooming and saddling the horse and during warm-up walking under a rider. The changes of the parameters throughout the season suggest that the relaxing massage may be effectively used to make the racehorses more relaxed and calm. Moreover, the horses from the experimental group had better race performance records.

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... Each massage session proceeded as follows: first, the neck was massaged, followed by the cranial part of the trunk with an emphasis on the scapula, and then the middle part of the horse, focusing on the back muscles. When the back and chest area had been massaged, the croup area was covered, and finally, the front and hind limbs were treated (details were described by Kowalik et al., 2017). A typical classical relaxing massage session obligatorily includes the massage of the following muscles and tendons: hind limbs: quadriceps femoris, gastrocnemius, long digital extensor, and superficial digital flexor tendon. ...
... To simplify the analysis and presentation of this large amount of data, it was necessary to group the results into time periods. Based on data included in other studies Janczarek et al., 2016;Kowalik et al., 2017), we decided to analyse data in three two-month periods. Moreover, these three periods covered the three phases of the race season: the beginning, when the horses habituate to participation in the races; the middle, when the most important races occur; and the end, including the last races which decide the final placing of each horse in general race performance. ...
... The obtained results were presented and analysed in the three two-month periods. Results of other studies indicated that the horse HRV response to innovations in a training routine is long-lasting, namely, the addition of relaxing methods induced visible changes in HRV parameters in the studied horses one to three months later Janczarek et al., 2016;Kowalik et al., 2017). Moreover, mean scores assigned for the behaviour of horses during each massage session indicated that their response to massage differed significantly after about two months of the study. ...
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We analysed the frequency of symptoms and degree of muscle pain in selected body parts of racing horses assessed during classic massage sessions. The influence of horse's sex on obtained results was considered. The potential for the early determination of pain in horses by analysing their behaviour and cardiac parameters during a massage session was also evaluated. The study was conducted on 20 three-year-old purebred Arabian horses during one racing season. In the racing season, cyclic classic massage sessions were performed, during which the frequency of symptoms and the degree of pain in the neck, back, croup, front limbs, and hind limbs were analysed. A behavioural assessment of the horses was conducted, and cardiac parameters were analysed. During massage, the frequency of pain symptoms in front limbs amounted to 26, while in croup, it did not exceed 6. The studied horses were most susceptible to pain in the front limbs and in the back, with greater severity in stallions than in mares. An assessment of the frequency and severity of pain symptoms should not be based on changes in behaviour of horses or on cardiac parameters (HR and LF:HF ratio) during massage sessions. However, these methods can be applied after pain reactions intensify. Meanwhile, qualified masseurs can diagnose slight muscle pain during massage sessions.
... Yet another issue is the use of healthy animals to study the effect of treatment of pain [25]. Some of the studies use non-validated outcome measures, such as visual movement examination or assessment of racing performance [21,22], which introduces yet another risk for bias. ...
... Effleurage and petrissage on proximal body and limbs were compared to non-randomized control groups, one ridden exercise and one non-active group [25]. Friction, petrissage, shaking, and tapotement were compared to a randomized control group in racing horses [22]. Effleurage and kneading of the hindquarters were compared to a randomized cross-over placebo control [19]. ...
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Soft tissue mobilization is frequently used in the treatment of sport and companion animals. There is, however, uncertainty regarding the efficacy and effectiveness of these methods. Therefore, the aim of this systematic literature review was to assess the evidence for clinical effects of massage and stretching in cats, dogs, and horses. A bibliographic search, restricted to studies in cats, dogs, and horses, was performed on Web of Science Core Collection, CABI, and PubMed. Relevant articles were assessed for scientific quality, and information was extracted on study characteristics, species, type of treatment, indication, and treatment effects. Of 1189 unique publications screened, 11 were eligible for inclusion. The risk of bias was assessed as high in eight of the studies and moderate in three of the studies, two of the latter indicating a decreased heart rate after massage. There was considerable heterogeneity in reported treatment effects. Therefore, the scientific evidence is not strong enough to define the clinical efficacy and effectiveness of massage and stretching in sport and companion animals.
... Animal physiotherapy has been popularized; and in fact, this is another example of mutual transfer of knowledge and practical skills between people and animals. The goal of animal physiotherapy is to alleviate stress and accelerate the recovery of the body after accidents, surgical procedures, obesity, and age-related morbidities [68,100,101]. Physiotherapeutic treatments for animals may be successfully used both in small and large species, including horses [100,101]. Aside from injured animals, such procedures can be applied to old animals. ...
... The goal of animal physiotherapy is to alleviate stress and accelerate the recovery of the body after accidents, surgical procedures, obesity, and age-related morbidities [68,100,101]. Physiotherapeutic treatments for animals may be successfully used both in small and large species, including horses [100,101]. Aside from injured animals, such procedures can be applied to old animals. ...
Article
This article presents an overview of the literature on aging in the context of human–horse similarities and describes the role of animal models in the study of human geriatrics. For any given comparative aging study, the choice of a specific animal species is based on the physiological and pathophysiological resemblance of the aging process in animals and humans. In horses, the physique of the body, the course of the aging process, and the spectrum of naturally occurring diseases are similar to those in humans. Although the horse is not a laboratory animal, aging horses are a relatively numerous, which allows for geriatric studies on diseases with a similar course as in humans, for example, diabetes or polysaccharide storage myopathy. The potential benefits are two-pronged as some of the developments in human medicine can also be implemented in equine therapy. Moreover, aged horses can be used in hippotherapy for elderly people. In the near future, horses may be able to help extend the human lifespan or at least diminish the consequences of aging.
... As vagal sensory neurons innervate parts of the head/neck area and respond to stretch, pressure, and temperature (Kupari et al., 2019), tactile stimulation in this region possibly increases vagal activity non-invasively and non-aversively. In fact, neck massages induce a shift from SNS to PNS dominance in animals (Kowalik et al., 2017;Uvnas-Moberg, 1998), and increase PNS activity in human populations (Field, 2010(Field, , 2014Field et al., 2010). Specifically, moderate, but not light pressure massage increases PNS activity (Diego & Field, 2009;Field, 2010;Field et al., 2006), possibly by direct stimulation of the vagal nerve. ...
... This suggests that the parasympathetic nervous system is less involved in the horse responses studied than the sympathetic nervous system. It is known that the RMSSD changes, for example, in response to relaxation treatment [32]. Despite the non-significant post hoc differences in the RMSSD, the significant changes in many behavioural, locomotor and HR variables in the social herd, which occurred in response to the short separation of some mares, confirm the first part of our hypothesis. ...
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Horses in a herd develop and maintain a dominance hierarchy between all individuals. There are many situations in riding facilities and studs in which horses have to be separated out of a group. The aim of the study was to determine the rate of behaviours, level of locomotor activity and cardiac activity variables in a herd of horses during a short social separation of individuals differently ranked in the dominance hierarchy. Twelve adult Arabian mares were involved. A behavioural test had been performed before the main experiment to determine the rank order of the mares in this social herd. Three tests were performed when a dominant, mixed and submissive three-member group of mares was separated for 10 min. The response of the remaining herd was determined by a rate of behaviours, time of locomotor activity and cardiac parameters. The results of the experiment reveal evident changes towards emotional arousal in the social herd elicited by a short separation of some conspecifics. The herd created by humans preserves the sensitivity to a temporary loss of its members. The response of the remaining herd does not depend strictly on the composition of the separated mares regarding their rank in the dominance hierarchy.
... SS, steady-state; Cut, after noxious stimulation; Hypo, retrospectively before each hypotension; Dobut , after each dobutamine initiation; Post-dobut, after each dobutamine discontinuation. (Kowalik et al., 2017). Moreover, one study focused on monitoring recovery and the possible overtraining status in horses by measuring HRV. ...
Article
The parasympathetic tone activity (PTA) index is based on heart rate variability and has been developed recently in animals to assess their relative parasympathetic tone. This study aimed to evaluate PTA index in anaesthetized horses with different health conditions and the performance of PTA variations (∆PTA) to predict changes in mean arterial pressure (MAP). Thirty-nine client-horses were anaesthetized for elective or colic surgery and divided into “Elective” and “Colic” groups. During anaesthesia, dobutamine was administered as treatment of hypotension (MAP <60 mmHg). In both groups, no significant variation of PTA and MAP were detected immediately before and after cutaneous incision. The PTA index increased 5 min before each hypotension, whereas it decreased 1 min after dobutamine administration. Horses of the Colic group had lower PTA values than those of the Elective group, whereas MAP did not differ between groups. To predict a 10% decrease in MAP, ΔPTA performance was associated with: AUC ROC [95% CI] =0.80 [0.73 to 0.85] (p < 0.0001), with a sensitivity of 62.5% and a specificity of 94.6% for a threshold value of 25%. The PTA index in anaesthetized horses appears to be influenced by the health condition. The shift toward lower PTA values in colic horses may reflect a sympathetic predominance. An increase in PTA of >25% in 1 min showed an acceptable performance to predict MAP decrease of >10% within 5 min. Even though these results require further evaluation, this index may thus help to predict potential autonomic dysfunctions in sick animals.
... Findings suggest a major behavioral component to mortality and by inference to morbidity, and that youth, inexperience, and associated behaviors might be considered as possible primary mortality contributors. There are challenges involved in working with young racehorses [47,48], which face many sources of stress in the racing environment [49][50][51][52]. Aggressiveness and vitality in young, intact horses may be seen to confer competitive advantage, while anticipated loss of these attributes may be seen as one reason to delay castration of stallions. ...
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Factors associated with mortality in standardbred racehorses were assessed through a retrospective annualized cohort study of all-cause mortality from 2003–2015 (n = 978) (identified in the Ontario Racehorse Death Registry). Race and qualifying data for official work-events were also gathered (1,778,330 work-events, 125,200 horse years). Multivariable logistic regression analysis revealed sex, age, and indices of workload and intensity and their interactions to be strongly associated with mortality. Track class, race versus qualifying performance, and work-event outcome (finish position, scratched, or failed to finish) also influenced mortality odds, which increased as performance slowed. Intense competition at higher performance levels and qualifying races at lower levels carried particularly high odds. Though occurring frequently, musculoskeletal injury was less frequent than all other presenting problems combined. Industry structure contributes to mortality through interaction between horse characteristics and the competition environment. This substrate may be amenable to management to minimize liability, but incident-specific triggers may represent chance factors and be relatively difficult to identify or control. Differentiating between substrate and trigger when studying specific clinical problems may provide greater clarity and yield in identifying underlying causes. Mortality may reflect a continuum of circumstances, cumulative impacts of which might be identified before a fatal event occurs.
... Since an increase in HF indicates a shift towards the dominant activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, the IS and MC values of this parameter are characteristic of the relaxation state of the horses [20]. Elevated values of HF were reported in horses subjected to listening to relaxing music and/or to relaxing massage [37,38]. The current results may indicate that horses were slightly more relaxed staying in IS or MC than in SH. ...
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The horse’s welfare and, consequently, the emotional arousal may be connected with stressful environmental conditions. This study aimed to determine whether horses show behavioural or physiological symptoms of thermal discomfort and if their behaviour and cardiac parameters are related to freely chosen insolated (IS), shaded (SH), or water sprayed (with a mist curtain (MC)) areas in a paddock under heat conditions (29–32 °C, 42.0 ± 1.5% humidity). Twelve adult horses freely moving in the paddock were studied during a 45 min solitary turnout. Six cardiac variables, locomotor, and non-locomotor activities as well as rectal temperature before and after the test were monitored with regard to the area of staying. Horses did not show clear preferences regarding the time spent in IS, SH, and MC, although preferences of particular horses differed considerably. When staying under IS and MC conditions, the horses showed a higher level of relaxation compared to SH. Horses did not exhibit symptoms of thermal discomfort while staying in the sun. Free choice between the three areas differing in environmental conditions could be a crucial factor in maintaining body temperature as well as emotional arousal at similar levels. Thus, the provision of a shade and mist curtain in paddocks seems to be reasonable.
... The RR generally decreased, reflecting a decrease in vagal nervous system activity during the experiment. In studies on the treatment of physiotherapy and other relaxation methods used in horses, this parameter was found to increase [31,32]. The saliva cortisol concentration significantly increased in most cases in the present study, which indicated that some level of stress in horses is related to their emotional excitability [7]. ...
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Background Predatory attacks on horses can become a problem in some parts of the world, particularly when considering the recovering gray wolf populations. The issue studied was whether horses transformed by humans and placed in stable-pasture environments had retained their natural abilities to respond to predation risk. The objective of the study was to determine the changes in cardiac activity, cortisol concentrations, and behavior of horses in response to the vocalizations of two predators: the gray wolf (Canis lupus), which the horses of the breed studied had coevolved with but not been exposed to recently, and Arabian leopard (Panthera pardus nimr), from which the horses had been mostly isolated. In addition, we hypothesized that a higher proportion of Thoroughbred (TB) horse ancestry in the pedigree would result in higher emotional excitability in response to predator vocalizations. Nineteen horses were divided into groups of 75%, 50% and 25% TB ancestry. The auditory test conducted in a paddock comprised a 10-min prestimulus period, a 5-min stimulus period when one of the predators was heard, and a 10-min poststimulus period without any experimental stimuli. Results The increase in heart rate and saliva cortisol concentration in response to predator vocalizations indicated some level of stress in the horses. The lowered beat-to-beat intervals revealed a decrease in parasympathetic nervous system activity. The behavioral responses were less distinct than the physiological changes. The responses were more pronounced with leopard vocalizations than wolf vocalizations. Conclusions The horses responded with weak signs of anxiety when exposed to predator vocalizations. A tendency towards a stronger internal reaction to predators in horses with a higher proportion of TB genes suggested that the response intensity was partly innate. The more pronounced response to leopard than wolf may indicate that horses are more frightened of a threatening sound from an unknown predator than one known by their ancestors. The differing response can be also due to differences in the characteristic of the predators’ vocalizations. Our findings suggested that the present-day horses’ abilities to coexist with predators are weak. Hence, humans should protect horses against predation, especially when introducing them into seminatural locations.
... The increased values suggest a higher parasympathetic activity after stroking in the "live, " but not the "playback" condition. An increased HF may be associated with positive emotions (McCraty et al., 1995;von Borell et al., 2007) and was found in horses regularly receiving a relaxing massage (Kowalik et al., 2017). This increase in HF was not accompanied by an increase in RMSSD, although both represent vagal activity and are often correlated (Task Force of ESP and NASPE, 1996;Hagen et al., 2005;von Borell et al., 2007;Shaffer et al., 2014). ...
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The quality of the animal-human relationship and, consequently, the welfare of animals can be improved by gentle interactions such as stroking and talking. The perception of different stimuli during these interactions likely plays a key role in their emotional experience, but studies are scarce. During experiments, the standardization of verbal stimuli could be increased by using a recording. However, the use of a playback might influence the perception differently than “live” talking, which is closer to on-farm practice. Thus, we compared heifers' (n = 28) reactions to stroking while an experimenter was talking soothingly (“live”) or while a recording of the experimenter talking soothingly was played (“playback”). Each animal was tested three times per condition and each trial comprised three phases: pre-stimulus, stimulus (stroking and talking) and post-stimulus. In both conditions, similar phrases with positive content were spoken calmly, using long low-pitched vowels. All tests were video recorded and analyzed for behaviors associated with different affective states. Effects on the heifers' cardiac parameters were assessed using analysis of heart rate variability. Independently of the auditory stimuli, longer durations of neck stretching occurred during stroking, supporting our hypothesis of a positive perception of stroking. Observation of ear positions revealed longer durations of the “back up” position and less ear flicking and changes of ear positions during stroking. The predicted decrease in HR during stroking was not confirmed; instead we found a slightly increased mean HR during stroking with a subsequent decrease in HR, which was stronger after stroking with live talking. In combination with differences in HRV parameters, our findings suggest that live talking might have been more pleasurable to the animals and had a stronger relaxing effect than “playback.” The results regarding the effects of the degree of standardization of the stimulus on the variability of the data were inconclusive. We thus conclude that the use of recorded auditory stimuli to promote positive affective states during human-animal interactions in experimental settings is possible, but not necessarily preferable.
... = 60.54, p < 0.001, partial η 2 = 0.515, BF 10 = 2.662E + 24), but neither an effect of Experimental Condition (F 2,57 = 0.22, p = 0.802, partial η 2 = 0.008, BF 10 To test the hypothesis that receiving a massage (VNM and SSM condition) leads to greater increases in HF-HRV compared to rest (RCG), different statistical models with increasing complexity (see "Statistical analysis" section) were compared using an ANOVA. The successive incorporation of random intercepts (but not random slopes), the different trends of Time (linear, quadratic, cubic), and the first-order autoregressive covariance Table 1. ...
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Health and disease are strongly linked to psychophysiological states. While stress research strongly benefits from standardized stressors, no established protocol focuses on the induction of psychophysiological relaxation. to maintain health, functioning regenerative systems are however likely as important as functioning stress systems. Thus, the identification of validated relaxation paradigms is needed. Here, we investigated whether standardized massages are capable of reliably inducing physiological and psychological states of relaxation. Relaxation was indicated by changes in high frequency heart rate variability (Hf-HRV), a vagally-mediated heart rate variability component, and repeated ratings of subjective relaxation, and stress levels. Sixty healthy women were randomly assigned to a vagus nerve massage (n = 19), a soft shoulder massage (n = 22), or a resting control group (n = 19). During the intervention, HF-HRV and subjective relaxation increased, while subjective stress decreased significantly in all groups. Both massage interventions elicited significantly higher HF-HRV compared to the control group. Accordingly, both massage protocols increased psychophysiological relaxation, and may serve as useful tools in future research. However, future work will have to determine which of several protocols might be used as a gold standard to induce a psychophysiological state of relaxation in the laboratory.
... There exists a close relationship between emotions and physiology, more particularly the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activity (Sander and Scherer, 2014). Therefore, biomarkers play an important role and serve as a proxy when assessing emotion and positive well-being in animals (e.g.,von Borell et al., 2007;Schmied et al., 2008Schmied et al., , 2010Reefmann et al., 2009a,b;Coulon et al., 2013Coulon et al., , 2015Briefer et al., 2015;Kowalik et al., 2017). Heart rate (HR) (Csoltova et al., 2017), heart rate variability (HRV) (Bergamasco et al., 2010;Katayama et al., 2016;Travain et al., 2016), surface temperature (Travain et al., 2015(Travain et al., , 2016Csoltova et al., 2017), oxytocin (Odendaal and Meintjes, 2003;Mitsui et al., 2011;Rehn et al., 2014;Nagasawa et al., 2015), vasopressin (Hydbring-Sandberg et al., 2004;MacLean et al., 2017aMacLean et al., ,b, 2018Pirrone et al., 2019), cortisol (Hennessy et al., 1998(Hennessy et al., , 2006Coppola et al., 2006;Bergamasco et al., 2010;Shiverdecker et al., 2013), and alpha-amylase (Contreras-Aguilar et al., 2017;Hong et al., 2019) have been implemented and showed potential usefulness in indirect and noninvasive assessment of positiveemotion in dogs. ...
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Although there have been a growing number of studies focusing on dog welfare, the research field concerning dog positive-emotion assessment remains mostly unexplored. This paper aims to provide a state-of-the-art review and summary of the scattered and disperse research on dog positive-emotion assessment. The review notably details the current advancement in dog positive-emotion research, what approaches, measures, methods, and techniques have been implemented so far in emotion perception, processing, and response assessment. Moreover, we propose possible future research directions for short-term emotion as well as longer-term emotional states assessment in dogs. The review ends by identifying and addressing some methodological limitations and by pointing out further methodological research needs.
... In dogs, negative affective states following isolation have been associated with a decrease in rMSSD (Katayama et al., 2016). In horses, regular 'relaxing' massages have been associated with higher HRV (rMMSD, among others) (Kowalik et al., 2017). Similarly, in sheep, rMSSD was higher when animals were in a putative positive affective state (being groomed) than when they were in a putative negative affective state (being isolated) (Reefmann et al., 2009b). ...
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Kremer, L., S.E.J. Klein Holkenborg, I.S. Reimert, J.E. Bolhuis, L.E. Webb. The nut and bolts of animal emotion. NEUROSCI BIOBEHAV REV X, XXX-XXX, 2019. - The study of animal emotion, as with its human equivalent, can be confusing due to the complicated and inconsistent use of terminology, and the number of interlinked fields and topics it encompasses. With this review, we aim to provide an up-to-date and, to the best of our knowledge, complete overview of the field of animal emotion, especially intended for new-comers to the field who wish to get a grasp of this field. We start by tackling the terminology and proposing definitions of commonly used terms, and present the different frameworks used for the study of animal emotion. Here, we heavily draw from human literature, as the definitions of animal emotion are derived originally from human research. We follow-up with an overview of current methodologies for the study of animal emotion, in particular the valence dimension of emotion, and including some of the associated limitations linked to these methodologies. We end by pointing out key areas for future research.
... Hz and high-frequency band (HF) at 0.07-0.6 Hz, following the recommendations of previous studies performed in horses (Kowalik, Janczarek, Kedzierski, Stachurska, & Wilk, 2017;Kuwahara et al., 1999;Vitale et al., 2013). The variables measured were peak low (LF peak ) and high (HF peak ) frequencies, and total LF and total HF power expressed in percentage value (LF%, HF%). ...
Article
Simulated hypoxic normobaric devices have been used in human beings in order to enhance endurance capacity. These devices are sealed chambers where the athletes are supposed to stay for at least 6–8 hr daily. The current research assesses the changes in time‐domain, spectral and non‐geometrical heart rate variability (HRV) parameters in 6 horses subjected to progressive duration periods inside of a hermetically sealed chamber. It was pursued, firstly to evaluate the intensity of the stress experienced by the animals and secondly to elucidate whether the horses might require an acclimation period before implementation of hypoxic conditions. HRV parameters were monitored for 6 days: day 0 (6‐hr duration; in paddocks; basal conditions), and days 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 (1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 hr inside the chamber every day respectively). During day 1 and during the first hours of days 2 and 3, compared to day 0, horses presented increased HR and SDHR values and decreased RR interval duration. SD1 values decreased on some hours of days 2 and 3, but differences with day 0 were not found on day 1. Increased SDNN, RMSSD, SD1 and SD2 values were observed on days 4 and 5. These results showed an activation of the sympathetic activity together with an attenuation of the parasympathetic activity during the days 1 to 3. Increased parasympathetic activity was found only during the first hours of days 4 and 5. Spectral parameters experienced minor variations, with increased LFpeak and LF% during some hours of days 4 and 5. In conclusion, at least 3 days are needed to adapt the horse to a sealed environment before starting to subject the animals to hypoxic conditions. When the horses were acclimatized, however, a minor stress was detected with they spent more than 4 hr inside of the chamber.
... Unfortunately, all forms of physical therapy are often unavailable, too expensive, or too time-consuming for average horse users and owners [13]. Therefore, they are most frequently intended for sport or racehorses [14]. An alternative method to physical therapy, which can be commonly used, is music therapy. ...
Article
The aim of the study was to evaluate the effect of music therapy on changes in the level of parameters describing heart rate (HR) and heart rate variability (HRV) as excitability indicators in geriatric horses. The study involved 20 warmblood geriatric horses, aged 20 years or more. Animals were kept in two identical stables in one facility. Horses from stable No. 1 were considered the experimental group, whereas horses from stable No. 2 constituted a control group. The experiment consisted in playing relaxation new age music to the horses in the experimental group for 28 days use special sound system (MyPetSpeaker). To examine the emotional excitability of horses from both groups, HR and HRV parameters were used. The subsequent measurements were performed morning at rest at 7-day intervals, counting from the first day of the experiment, and four measurements were recorded. HR and HRV measures indicated that daily exposure for several hours to new age music had a positive effect on relaxation of geriatric horses. A short-term effect of 1–2 weeks duration was observed beginning 1 week after onset. Unfortunately, the effect disappears after subsequent 2–3 weeks of therapy application, without leaving spectacular results.
... [12 Several studies have shown that aerobic capacity in horses can improve without significant heart rate decrease as an effect of training [11,[16][17][18][19]. Moreover, HR is not only influenced by effort, but even so by emotional excitability, reason for which many studies on equine welfare have included the follow up of heart rate variability in their study design [20,21]. In the study performed by Munsters et al., no BLA levels were determined at start of the training study, only a longitudinal follow up of HRs was performed. ...
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Background Most Friesian horses reach their anaerobic threshold during a standardized exercise test (SET) which requires lower intensity exercise than daily routine training. Aim: to study strengths and weaknesses of an alternative SET-protocol. Two different SETs (SETA and SETB) were applied during a 2 month training period of 9 young Friesian dressage horses. SETB alternated short episodes of canter with trot and walk, lacking long episodes of cantering, as applied in SETA. Following parameters were monitored: blood lactic acid (BLA) after cantering, average heart rate (HR) in trot and maximum HR in canter. HR and BLA of SETA and SETB were analyzed using a paired two-sided T-test and Spearman Correlation-coefficient (p* < 0.05). ResultsBLA after cantering was significantly higher in SETA compared to SETB and maximum HR in canter was significantly higher in SETA compared to SETB.The majority of horses showed a significant training response based upon longitudinal follow-up of BLA. Horses with the lowest fitness at start, displayed the largest training response. BLA was significantly lower in week 8 compared to week 0, in both SETA and SETB. A significantly decreased BLA level after cantering was noticeable in week 6 in SETA, whereas in SETB only as of week 8. In SETA a very strong correlation for BLA and average HR at trot was found throughout the entire training period, not for canter. Conclusions Young Friesian horses do reach their anaerobic threshold during a SET which requires lower intensity than daily routine training. Therefore close monitoring throughout training is warranted. Longitudinal follow up of BLA and not of HR is suitable to assess training response. In the current study, horses that started with the lowest fitness level, showed the largest training response. During training monitoring HR in trot rather than in canter is advised. SETB is best suited as a template for daily training in the aerobic window.
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Integrative medicine is based on a model of being proactive and promoting health and wellness, rather than being reactive and solely focusing on episodic disease processes. Integrative medicine incorporates a holistic approach to clinical practice that encourages owner involvement with a focus on individualized care, maintained wellness, optimized performance, and disease prevention. Health promotion and preventative care require a different set of clinical skills and perspectives than is typically provided by a traditional veterinary education. Productive interprofessional collaborations are an essential component to the effective delivery of integrative medicine services.
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There is a growing body of evidence to support the use of spinal mobilization and manipulation techniques in equine practice. Outcome parameters reported across studies include measures of joint motion, nociception, muscle tone, and performance. Spinal examination procedures include static and dynamic assessments of the quantity and the quality of both active and passive movements. Tiered treatment approaches are recommended to stage the application of various therapies based on ease, cost, and efficacy.
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Horses preparation for competition may cause psychological and physical stress. Physical vascular therapy BEMER® is reported to increase vasomotion and microcirculation, supporting body healing. This study aimed at assessing whether BEMER® physical vascular therapy in horses influences recovery rate of hematological and biochemical blood parameters within 1 h after moderate exercise and reduces stress measured by physiological and behavioral indicators. This prospective, randomized, double blinded, placebo-controlled crossover study included twelve warmblood horses (3 mares, 8 geldings, 1 stallion). Additionally to their daily work, horses were subjected to 15 min of exercise on a longe. Horses were randomly divided in two groups: A (n = 6), B (n = 6). Group A underwent first to BEMER® blanket for two weeks, then to Placebo blanket for two weeks. Group B did the opposite. Blood samples, thermographic infrared images, Heart Rate Variability and behavior were analyzed. ANOVA was used to investigate any treatment effect. After two weeks of treatment, although not statistically significant, hematocrit (%) measured immediately post exercise was lower in horses undergoing BEMER® treatment (48.30% ± 3.21) than both No blanket (51.15% ± 3.57) and Placebo blanket (49.58% ± 5.77). While wearing BEMER® blanket and after treatment, horses had a lower LF/HF ratio compared to other groups, although this difference was not statistically significant. These results possibly suggest an effect of BEMER® therapy on vagal activity and relaxation. Substantial progress in recovery after exercise was not confirmed, leading to the need for further investigation on the overall effect of BEMER® therapy.
Article
This study analysed heart rate variability (HRV) parameters in selected intervals of a 24-hour recording session. The study was conducted with eight young and eight old, clinically-healthy geldings. HRV measurements were taken with Polar RS800CX instruments. The recordings were then analysed with Kubios HRV software. The following time intervals were identified: 24 hours, 15 hours of the day (light period), 9 hours of the night in total, and in subsequent hours of the night. During each interval, the following time analysis parameters were investigated: heart rate (beats per minute; HR), verified beat-to-beat times (NN), standard deviation of the NN intervals (SDNN), and the square radical of the mean sum of the squares of differences between the adjacent NN intervals (rMSSD). The following HRV frequency parameters were also investigated: total power of the spectrum (TP), high-frequency spectrum (HF), low-frequency spectrum (LF) and LF/HF ratio. It was found that geriatric horses had higher HRs, but reduced some HRV parameters compared to young horses. Noticeable changes were least evident after midnight, especially between 01h00 and 04h00.
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Background: Heart rate variability (HRV) is an intrinsic property that reflects autonomic balance and has been shown to be predictive of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality. It can be altered by physiological states such as exercise or pathological conditions. However, there are only a handful of studies on HRV in horses. The aim of this study is to compare HRV parameters before and during exercise in horses. Methods: Time-domain, frequency-domain and non-linear analyses were applied to quantify time series data on RR intervals before and during exercise in horses (n=7). Results: Exercise increased heart rate from 44±8 to 113±17 bpm (ANOVA, P <0.05) and decreased standard deviation (SD) from 7±2 to 4±2 bpm, coefficient of variation (CoV) from 16±4% to 3±2% and root mean square of successive RR interval differences (RMSSD) from 89.4±91.5 to 6.5±3.7 ms. Contrastingly, no difference in low-frequency (0.10±0.03 vs. 0.09±0.03 Hz) and high-frequency (0.19±0.03 vs. 0.18±0.03 Hz) peaks, nor in their percentage powers (2±1 vs. 4±5%; 59±9 vs. 64±20%; 39±10 vs. 32±19%) were observed but very low-frequency, low-frequency, and high-frequency powers (ms ² ) were reduced from 29±17 to 2±5, 1138±372 to 22±22 and 860±564 to 9±6, respectively, as was total power (in logarithms) (7.52±0.52 to 3.25±0.73). Poincaré plots of RR n+1 against RR n revealed similar ellipsoid shapes before and after exercise. The SD along the line-of-identity (SD2) and SD perpendicular to the line-of-identity (SD1) were decreased by exercise (62±17 vs. 9±5 and 63±65 vs. 5±3), corresponding to increased SD2/SD1 ratio from 1.33±0.45 to 2.19±0.72. No change in approximate and sample entropy was detected (0.97±0.23 vs. 0.82±0.22 and 1.14±0.43 vs. 1.37±0.49). Detrended fluctuation analysis revealed unaltered short-term fluctuation slopes (0.76±0.27 vs. 1.18±0.55) but increased long-term fluctuation slopes (0.16±0.11 vs. 0.50±0.16) after exercise. Conclusion: Exercise leads to a decrease in HRV but did not affect signal entropy in horses.
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The realm of manual therapy includes diverse techniques such as chiropractic, osteopathy, physical therapy, massage therapy, and touch therapies, which have been developed for use in human beings and the techniques transferred to horses. All forms of manual therapy have reported levels of effectiveness for treating musculoskeletal issues in human beings, but mostly only anecdotally evidence exists in horses. The purpose of this review is to explore the scientific literature for potential common mechanisms of action and evidence of efficacy and safety for different forms of manual therapies, with a specific focus on joint mobilization and manipulation techniques. A description of a detailed musculoskeletal and spinal examination using manual therapy techniques is also presented. In humans, there is an extensive published data base for most forms of manual therapies; however, the methodological quality of most studies is poor, which often prevents definitive conclusions and recommendations. In horses, there are too few controlled studies to support most anecdotal claims of effectiveness. However, there is limited evidence suggesting effectiveness of spinal manipulation in reducing pain and muscle hypertonicity and increasing joint range-of-motion. Further research is needed to assess the efficacy of specific manual therapy techniques or combined treatments for management of documented back problems and specific lameness conditions in horses. Additional studies are also needed to define specific treatment parameters required for optimal management of select disease processes, such as the amount of force applied, and the frequency and duration of treatment.
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Using a portable ECG data logger, heart rate variability (HRV) in horses was measured under controlled- (resting-), mental stress- and physical stress conditions. Time domain-, frequency domain- and non-linear parameters were used to describe the variations in the HRV. Simple linear parameters like SDANN and RMSSD can demonstrate that there are differences in HRV between resting conditions, mental- and physical-stress conditions but do not give an explanation about the underlying mechanisms. Fourier analysis with calculation of low and high frequency bands gives further information: physical stress is characterised by an increase in sympathetic tone and a decrease in parasympathet ic tone - a fact which is commonly accepted. No differences could be found between resting conditions and mental stress. Summarising the results of non-linear recurrence plot variables, it seems, that during different physiological states the organism shifts between various control strategies. Under resting conditions a kind of deterministic -chaotic control is preferred which changes to more strict periodic control under physical stress. Mental stress seems to be characterised by a more random influenced control which means more or less loss of control over the heart rate variability.
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Although there has been a recent surge in using horses to treat mental and emotional human health issues, the consequences of horse-assisted interventions on the stress response of horses have not been well documented. Assessment of the autonomic nervous system and its regulation of cardiovascular function has been used as an indicator of acute and chronic stress in human beings and horses. Heart rate variability (HRV) is a noninvasive measurement that has been used to assess autonomic nervous system regulation of cardiovascular function. There is evidence to suggest that several factors including the genotype, behavior, environment, temperament, and nutritional status of the horse play a key role in the large inter-individual variations in basal HRV. The present study determined whether 24-hour HRV recordings in horses currently working in equine-assisted therapy (EAT) differ from those previously shown in Thoroughbred horses. Findings from the present study found that in contrast to previous studies in Thoroughbred horses, diurnal and nocturnal low frequency and high frequency powers were not significantly different in horses that are currently engaged in EAT. Future studies are needed to determine the short- and long-term consequences of horses participating in EAT programs. Findings from this study will provide the basis for the development of a physiological/behavioral assessment criteria to determine the consequences of EAT on the well-being of horses as well as to help EAT Centers to improve the beneficial effects of EAT in human beings.
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The use of massage (as a potential form of acupressure) has long been documented as a human relaxation aid. However, little scientific research has been carried out into its potential use as a form of stress reduction in the horse. This preliminary study investigated the effect of massage at six different sites (thoracic trapezius [withers], mid-brachiocephalicus, cervical ventral serrate and cervical trapezius [mid-neck], proximal gluteal fascia and proximal superficial gluteal [croup], proximal and mid-semitendinosus [second thigh], lateral triceps, proximal extensor carpi radialis and proximal common digital extensor [forearm], proximal brachiocephalicus, proximal splenius and ear [poll and ears) on stress-related behavioral and physiological (heart rate [HR]) measures in the horse. Ten riding school ponies/horses were massaged at each of the six sites (three preferred and three nonpreferred sites of allogrooming (mutual grooming between conspecifics) and changes in HR and behavior were recorded. The results indicated that during massage, all sites except the forearm resulted in a significant reduction in HR (P < .05) with massage at the withers, mid-neck, and croup having the greatest effect (preferred sites of allogrooming). Massage at preferred sites of allogrooming also elicited significantly more (P < .05) positive behavioral responses compared with the three nonpreferred sites. The practical implications of this study are discussed.
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Power spectral analysis of the beat-to-beat variations of heart rate or the heart period (R–R interval) has become widely used to quantify cardiac autonomic regulation (Appel et al., 1989; Task Force of the European Society of Cardiology and the North American Society of Pacing and Electrophysiology, 1996; Berntson et al., 1997; Denver et al., 2007; Thayler et al., 2010; Billman, 2011). This technique partitions the total variance (the “power”) of a continuous series of beats into its frequency components, typically identifying two or three main peaks: Very Low Frequency (VLF) <0.04 Hz, Low Frequency (LF), 0.04–0.15 Hz, and High Frequency (HF) 0.15–0.4 Hz. It should be noted that the HF peak is shifted to a higher range (typically 0.24–1.04 Hz) in infants and during exercise (Berntson et al., 1997). The HF peak is widely believed to reflect cardiac parasympathetic nerve activity while the LF, although more complex, is often assumed to have a dominant sympathetic component (Task Force of the European Society of Cardiology and the North American Society of Pacing and Electrophysiology, 1996; Berntson et al., 1997; Billman, 2011). Based upon these assumptions, Pagani and co-workers proposed that the ratio of LF to HF (LF/HF) could be used to quantify the changing relationship between sympathetic and parasympathetic nerve activities (i.e., the sympatho-vagal balance) (Pagani et al., 1984, 1986; Malliani et al., 1991) in both health and disease. However, this concept has been challenged (Kingwell et al., 1994; Koh et al., 1994; Hopf et al., 1995; Eckberg, 1997; Houle and Billman, 1999; Billman, 2011). Despite serious and largely under-appreciated limitations, the LF/HF ratio has gained wide acceptance as a tool to assess cardiovascular autonomic regulation where increases in LF/HF are assumed to reflect a shift to “sympathetic dominance” and decreases in this index correspond to a “parasympathetic dominance.” Therefore, it is vital to provide a critical assessment of the assumptions upon which this concept is based.
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Mounted police horses have to cope with challenging, unpredictable situations when on duty and it is essential to gain insight into how these horses handle stress to warrant their welfare. The aim of the study was to evaluate physiological and behavioral responses of 12 (six experienced and six inexperienced) police horses during police training. Horses were evaluated during four test settings at three time points over a 7-week period: outdoor track test, street track test, indoor arena test and smoke machine test. Heart rate (HR; beats/min), HR variability (HRV; root means square of successive differences; ms), behavior score (BS; scores 0 to 5) and standard police performance score (PPS; scores 1 to 0) were obtained per test. All data were statistically evaluated using a linear mixed model (Akaike's Information criterium; t > 2.00) or logistic regression (P < 0.05). HR of horses was increased at indoor arena test (98 ± 26) and smoke machine test (107 ± 25) compared with outdoor track (80 ± 12, t = 2.83 and t = 3.91, respectively) and street track tests (81 ± 14, t = 2.48 and t = 3.52, respectively). HRV of horses at the indoor arena test (42.4 ± 50.2) was significantly lower compared with street track test (85.7 ± 94.3 and t = 2.78). BS did not show significant differences between tests and HR of horses was not always correlated with the observed moderate behavioral responses. HR, HRV, PPS and BS did not differ between repetition of tests and there were no significant differences in any of the four tests between experienced and inexperienced horses. No habituation occurred during the test weeks, and experience as a police horse does not seem to be a key factor in how these horses handle stress. All horses showed only modest behavioral responses, and HR may provide complimentary information for individual evaluation and welfare assessment of these horses. Overall, little evidence of stress was observed during these police training tests. As three of these tests (excluding the indoor arena test) reflect normal police work, it is suggested that this kind of police work is not significantly stressful for horses and will have no negative impact on the horse's welfare.
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Interval training is a commonly used training method for trotting horses. In addition, trainers are provided with efficient and inexpensive heart rate monitor devices for the management of training. Since the high frequency (HF) frequency peak (fHF) of heart rate variability (HRV) corresponds to the breathing frequency in combination with stride frequency during trotting, it is hypothesised that modifications of breathing and stride frequencies induced by repeated exercise could be detected from fHF. RR interval time series of 7 trotting horses were recorded during an interval training session. Interval training was made up of 5 successive 800 m high-velocity trotting runs (H1, H2...H5) separated by 1 min recovery bouts at low speed (R1, R2...R5). Fast Fourier transform (FFT) and Poincaré plot analysis techniques were applied to RR series. Repeated exercise had significant effects on HRV components during interval training. Despite constant trotting velocities during high-speed and recovery, repetition induced a decrease in mean RR interval (H1: 295 +/- 19 vs. H5: 283 +/- 15 msec, P<0.05) and in the root mean square of successive differences in RR series (RMSSD; H1: 6.31 +/- 1.28 vs. H5: 5.31 +/- 1.31 msec, P<0.05). Furthermore, high-speed and recovery repetitions induced an increase in fHF (H1: 1.37 +/- 0.35 vs. H5: 1.62 +/- 0.40 Hz and R1: 0.22 +/- 0.02 vs. R4: 0.64 +/- 0.38 Hz, P<0.05). Hence, recovery induced a decrease in the s.d. of the successive RR series (SDRR; R3: 10.5 +/- 3.96 vs. R5: 6.17 +/- 2.65 msecs, P>0.05) and in the long term index of Poincaré plot (SD2; R1: 43.29 +/- 28.90 vs. R5: 18.19 +/- 9.35 msecs, P<0.05). The observed increase in fHF during the interval training could be induced by alterations of the coupling between breathing and stride frequency linked to the emergence of fatigue. The decrease in SD2 and SDRR during successive recovery bouts could be linked with a deterioration of the recovery pattern. HRV can provide breathing frequency data of Standardbreds during training without any respiratory device. Furthermore, HRV could provide useful makers of the emergence of fatigue states during training.
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Exercise represents a physical stress that challenges homeostasis. In response to this stressor, autonomic nervous system and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis are known to react and to participate in the maintenance of homeostasis. This includes elevation of cortisol and cathecholamines in plasma. However, sustained physical conditioning in highly trained athletes is associated with a decreased hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal response to exercise. On the other hand, highly trained athletes exhibit a chronic mild hypercortisolism at baseline that may be an adaptive change to chronic exercise. In addition the proinflammatory cytokine IL-6 is also activated. Moreover, exercise stimulates the secretion of GH and prolactin, and may influence the type of immunity by stimulating TH2 response profile. Besides, the stress of exercise inhibits the gonadal function, through the production of glucocorticoids and cathecholamines, as well as through activation of the CRH neurons. Nowadays, apart from the beneficial effects of exercise, there is increasing incidence of exercise-related short- and long- term consequences, especially concerning the female athlete that many authors describe as the so-called "exercise-related female reproductive dysfunction". These consequences include amenorrhea, infertility, eating disorders, osteoporosis, coronary heart disease and euthyroid "sick" syndrome. The mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis of the above disorders are discussed in this review.
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Heart rate variability (HRV) is a reliable reflection of the many physiological factors modulating the normal rhythm of the heart. In fact, they provide a powerful means of observing the interplay between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. It shows that the structure generating the signal is not only simply linear, but also involves nonlinear contributions. Heart rate (HR) is a nonstationary signal; its variation may contain indicators of current disease, or warnings about impending cardiac diseases. The indicators may be present at all times or may occur at random-during certain intervals of the day. It is strenuous and time consuming to study and pinpoint abnormalities in voluminous data collected over several hours. Hence, HR variation analysis (instantaneous HR against time axis) has become a popular noninvasive tool for assessing the activities of the autonomic nervous system. Computer based analytical tools for in-depth study of data over daylong intervals can be very useful in diagnostics. Therefore, the HRV signal parameters, extracted and analyzed using computers, are highly useful in diagnostics. In this paper, we have discussed the various applications of HRV and different linear, frequency domain, wavelet domain, nonlinear techniques used for the analysis of the HRV.
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Measurement of heart rate variability (HRV) is a non-invasive technique that can be used to investigate the functioning of the autonomic nervous system, especially the balance between sympathetic and vagal activity. It has been proven to be very useful in humans for both research and clinical studies concerned with cardiovascular diseases, diabetic autonomic dysfunction, hypertension and psychiatric and psychological disorders. Over the past decade, HRV has been used increasingly in animal research to analyse changes in sympathovagal balance related to diseases, psychological and environmental stressors or individual characteristics such as temperament and coping strategies. This paper discusses current and past HRV research in farm animals. First, it describes how cardiac activity is regulated and the relationships between HRV, sympathovagal balance and stress and animal welfare. Then it proceeds to outline the types of equipment and methodological approaches that have been adapted and developed to measure inter-beats intervals (IBI) and estimate HRV in farm animals. Finally, it discusses experiments and conclusions derived from the measurement of HRV in pigs, cattle, horses, sheep, goats and poultry. Emphasis has been placed on deriving recommendations for future research investigating HRV, including approaches for measuring and analysing IBI data. Data from earlier research demonstrate that HRV is a promising approach for evaluating stress and emotional states in animals. It has the potential to contribute much to our understanding and assessment of the underlying neurophysiological processes of stress responses and different welfare states in farm animals.
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This article posits that stereotypical behavior patterns and the overall psychological well being of today's performance horse could be substantially enhanced with care that acknowledges the relationship between domesticated horses and their forerunners. Feral horses typically roam in stable, social groups over large grazing territories, spending 16-20 hr per day foraging on mid- to poor-quality roughage. In contrast, today's elite show horses live in relatively small stalls, eat a limited-but rich-diet at specific feedings, and typically live in social isolation. Although the horse has been domesticated for more than 6000 years, there has been no selection for an equid who no longer requires an outlet for these natural behaviors. Using equine stereotypies as a welfare indicator, this researcher proposes that the psychological well being of today's performance horse is compromised. Furthermore, the article illustrates how minimal management changes can enhance horses' well being while still remaining compatible with the requirements of the sport-horse industry. The article discusses conclusions in terms of Fraser, Weary, Pajor, and Milligan's "integrative welfare model" (1997).
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The aim of this study was to measure emotional arousal in young race horses as expressed by heart rate (HR) during routine situations of grooming, hoof cleaning, and while at rest, having been transported from the environment of home stud farm to that of an unfamiliar training centre. A hypothesis was developed that the change of environment is a source of heavy stress for young race horses. The investigation involved 22 Purebred Arabian stallions and 19 Purebred Arabian mares, 2.5 years old, and 11 Thoroughbred stallions and 10 Thoroughbred mares, at the age of 1.5 years. The horses were examined twice: first in their home stud farms, and then three days after being moved to an unfamiliar training centre. The HR was measured at rest and while the horses were being groomed in their boxes. The HR registered during the grooming session at the new stable increased significantly in all studied groups of horses compared to the data obtained at their home stud farm. This increase was significantly higher in the groups of 1.5-year-old Thoroughbred stallions and mares than in the groups of 2.5-year-old Purebred Arabian horses. Young race horses should not be groomed just before training because the grooming routine involves their emotional arousal.
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The study explored the hypothesis that mares, which are more sensitive than stallions, react to stress with higher increase in heart rate (HR). A group was studied of 101 clinically healthy Standardbred trotters aged 11-18 months, during their daily training routine. The horses were divided into two groups according to sex (51 colts and 50 fillies). All the horses took part in a standard training session consisting of harnessing to the sulky, moving from the stable and a 45 minutes exercise on a sand track. Before the start of training session a belt with a transmitter for telemetric HR registration was placed on each horse. The measured HR did not show any differences in HR between colts and fillies either at rest, during handling and harnessing as well as during exercise and after it.
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The aim of this study was to explore the hypothesis that the emotional response of naive purebred Arabian colts and fillies to initial training is lower in the case of sympathetic methods compared with the traditional training methods, and that the response is differentiated with regard to the sex. A group of 32 young purebred Arabian horses was included in the initial training. Half of the group was subjected to a natural training method, and the other 16 horses were trained using a traditional method. Both groups comprised an equal number of colts and fillies. The training lasted a few days, as shortly as possible, with regard to individual horse’s needs. The emotional response of horses to training process was assessed with heart rate measured telemetrically. A horse’s response to sympathetic and traditional training methods depends on its sex. The sympathetic training method modifies the response of colts more than it influences the response of fillies. It is concluded that the natural method is particularly desired in training colts.
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Equestrian competitions require both physical activity and mental adaptation in horses. Cortisol, heart rate, and heart rate variability (HRV) are accepted stress parameters and, in this study, have been determined in horses (n = 13) participating in equestrian competitions for up to 3 consecutive days. Participation in competitions caused an increase in salivary cortisol concentrations (e.g., on day 1 from 1.0 ± 0.2 before to 2.2 ± 0.4 ng/mL after the competition, days 1 and 2: P < 0.001, day 3: P < 0.05) and an increase in heart rate (days 1 and 2: P < 0.001, day 3: P = 0.01). A consistent decrease in HRV occurred only in response to the final competition on day 3 (P < 0.01). When horses competing in dressage and show jumping were compared, cortisol release and HRV did not differ between groups, but after the competition, heart rate was lower in dressage than in show jumping horses (P < 0.05). Heart rate increased not only during the actual competition but already when horses were prepared in their stables (e.g., day 1: −60 minutes, 38.6 ± 2; −5 minutes, 77 ± 7; competition, 81 ± 10 beats per minute; P < 0.01). In conclusion, participation in equestrian competitions caused an increase in cortisol release and heart rate and a decrease in HRV variables. However, competitions were not a major stressor compared with other anthropogenic challenges such as transport, to which horses are exposed regularly.
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Following the lead of human athletic training, equine massage therapy is becoming a more common part of the management of equine athletes and pleasure horses alike. The basic science rationale for massage is supported by research indicating that massage may affect a number of physiologic systems as well as cellular and fascial components of the muscular system. Equine therapeutic massage, or sports massage, employs a number of techniques first developed in humans and has been reported to increase range of motion and stride length, reduce activity of nociceptive pain receptors, and reduce physiologic stress responses. Additional preliminary research indicates that massage therapy also may improve some aspects of exercise recovery. Although important evidence has begun to document the potential benefits of massage therapy for equine athletes, the current review may say less about the true clinical effects of massage therapy than it does about the current state of research in this field. Additional prospective study of massage therapy using sufficient scientific rigor will be necessary to provide veterinarians, trainers, and owners with definitive data and scientifically based confidence in the use of equine massage. In the meantime, the preliminary research, anecdotal positive effects, and case studies indicating potential benefit are not to be ignored; equine massage therapy already plays a valuable practical role in the care and training of many equine athletes.
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The aim of the study was to investigate whether heart rate variability (HRV) could assess alterations of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) at different levels of excitement. The behavioural and physiological responses of 20 warmblood horses to a challenging ground exercise task were studied. Prior to the experiment, the horses were evaluated at rest and during forward walking (FW). The horses were then forced to move backwards continuously during 3 min according to a standardised protocol (BW1). Subsequently, the horses were exposed to two training sessions, after which the backward walking (BW2) was re-evaluated. Heart rate (HR) and HRV-parameters such as the standard deviation of the beat-to-beat intervals (SDRR), the low (LF; sympathetic tone) and high frequency (HF) component of HRV (HF; parasympathetic tone) and their ratio (LF/HF; index representing the sympatho-vagal balance) were sampled at rest, and during FW, BW1 and BW2. Stress-related behaviour during BW1 and BW2 was determined from video recordings. The results of the different evaluations were compared to each other.
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Thirty foals and young Konik horses born in 3 consecutive years and reared up to weaning either in a forest reserve (R) or conventional stable (S) were compared with respect to behavioural reactions and heart rate (HR) during handling manipulations. The foals were randomly allocated within sex and rearing group to one of two handling treatments. Intensively handled (IH) foals received a 10-min handling, 5 days/week, beginning at the age of 2 weeks (S foals) or 10 months (R foals), and lasting up to the age of 24 months. During handling IH foals were haltered, touched, rubbed and their feet were picked up; non-handled (NH) foals were not handled except for routine or emergency veterinary care. The horses were tested at the age of approximately 6 months (S only) and 12, 18 and 24 months of age. In a test comprising catching the horse on a paddock, leading away from and towards the stable, picking up feet and being approached by an unfamiliar person, the horses' behaviour was scored and the HR was recorded telemetrically. The IH horses scored better as far as manageability behaviour is concerned (P
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Although some information exists on the stress response of horses in equestrian sports, the horse-rider team is much less well understood. In this study, salivary cortisol concentrations, heart rate (HR) and heart rate variability (HRV), SDRR (standard deviation of beat-to-beat interval) and RMSSD (root mean square of successive beat-to-beat intervals) were analysed in horses and their riders (n=6 each) at a public performance and an identical rehearsal that was not open to the public. Cortisol concentrations increased in both horses and riders (P<0.001) but did not differ between performance and rehearsal. HR in horses and riders increased during the rehearsal and the public performance (P<0.001) but the increase in HR was more pronounced (P<0.01) in riders than in their horses during the public performance (from 91±10 to 150±15beats/min) compared to the rehearsal (from 94±10 to 118±12beats/min). The SDRR decreased significantly during the equestrian tasks in riders (P<0.001), but not in their horses. The RMSSD decreased in horses and riders (P<0.001) during rehearsal and performance, indicating a decrease in parasympathetic tone. The decrease in RMSSD in the riders was more pronounced (P<0.05) during the performance (from 32.6±6.6 to 3.8±0.3ms) than during the rehearsal (from 27.5±4.2 to 6.6±0.6ms). The study has shown that the presence of spectators caused more pronounced changes in cardiac activity in the riders than it did in their horses.
Chapter
The welfare of horses in training for racing and competition can be compromised by errors of management of many processes. Lameness is usually identified, as the major problem facing horse trainers and high lameness rates in racehorses is a major welfare concern. Recent epidemiological studies have shed light on important environmental risk factors for lameness and catastrophic incidents during training and racing. Another important threat to the welfare of the athletic horse is failure of appropriate preparation of the horse for competition, resulting in earlier fatigue during a race. Fatigue during racing causes sub-optimal performance, increases the likelihood of injury and, in prolonged exercise contributes to exhaustion and even death. Failure to allow appropriate recovery periods after episodes of training and competition also contributes to a state of chronic fatigue. Trainers recognise that affected horses (or ‘stale’ horses) often have mood disturbances and are reluctant to exercise. Continued excessive training and inadequate recovery (termed, over-training) can result in weight loss and poor performance that is not reversed by short-term recovery periods. In events involving prolonged exercise, the performance and welfare of the horse are compromised by inappropriate fluid balance before and during exercise. Failure to properly prepare and maintain fluid balance of endurance horses results in a severe threat to welfare. Pronounced dehydration and hyperthermia can result in exhaustion and death.
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Heart rate (HR) is considered to be an effective tool for assessing animals' emotional response to a stimulus. We investigated changes in HR during a series of handling procedures (grooming test) in horses that had different experiences of human interaction. We used four groups of horses: grazing horses (group A), school horses (group B), six ponies, traditionally trained (group C), and six ponies, trained with modulated stimulus intensity (group D). An HR monitor was applied to each horse. The operator began the grooming test, standardized at the following points: (1) trainer's entry into the enclosure/paddock, (2) halter fastened, (3) start of grooming, (4) end of grooming, (5) saddling, and (6) inserting the bit. Group A repeated the grooming test twice: group A1 with a known operator and group A2 with an unknown operator. The data were compared by using analysis of variance (ANOVA) tests. The results showed a significant increase in HR (P ≤ .05) at point 2 compared with baseline in all groups except group D. Other significant differences were found at all points between groups A1 and A2, groups A2 and B, groups A1 and C, groups B and C, and at points 5 and 6 between groups A2 and C, as well as between groups C and D. Even when a scientific assessment of the increase in the HR is of primary importance, the use of this physiologic parameter may be helpful in assessing the horse's perceptions of stimuli presented by people during handling. Our results show that it is not the action “per se” that is important, but the manner in which horses perceive and appraise such actions in relation to the environment and their subject's experiences.
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Different tests were used to assess different aspects of the emotionality of 1–3 year-old horses: arena test; a `novel object' test; and a handling test. In reaction to the test situations no important differences were observed according to age or sex in the behaviour patterns, but clear individual differences were observed within these classes. The arena test seemed to reveal the degree of gregariousness of the animals whereas the results in the two other tests were correlated and seemed to reflect an inherent degree of fearfulness in the horse. Indices were developed that enabled to rank the animals, by taking into account all behaviour patterns shown. Such individual characteristics might have some genetic basis: half-siblings tended to behave the same way in most cases.
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Endurance training induces changes in autonomic nervous system functions. High intensity training includes the risk of overtraining, in man and horse. Heart rate variability (HRV) is a noninvasive measurement of the autonomic regulation of the heart rate, which is quick and easy to measure with modern telemetric technology. Since HRV is affected by changes in the autonomic nervous system, it might be an early stage indicator of poor recovery from a previous bout of exercise or overreaching or overtraining in horses in general. The aim of the study was to monitor recovery and the possible overtraining status in horses by measuring HRV. The measurements reflected the responses of the previous day activities during different training periods including basic training, precompetition and competition during a one-year follow-up. HRV was at the highest during precompetition period (P<0.05) and it decreased significantly during competition period (P<0.05), indicating an increased stress load in the competition period. Walking increased HRV significantly compared to complete rest or jogging as previous day activities during basic training and precompetition periods (P<0.05). This finding suggests that horses are more relaxed during moderate exercise than standing still or anaerobic exercise. HRV can be used to monitor the cardiovascular responses to training in horses but confirmatory measures may also be required in addition to HRV to exclude other possible causes of underperformance.
Article
The purpose of this study was to investigate the immediate effects of traditional Thai massage (TTM) on stress-related parameters including heart rate variability (HRV), anxiety, muscle tension, pain intensity, pressure pain threshold, and body flexibility in patients with back pain associated with myofascial trigger points. Thirty-six patients were randomly allocated to receive a 30-min session of either TTM or control (rest on bed) for one session. Results indicated that TTM was associated with significant increases in HRV (increased total power frequency (TPF) and high frequency (HF)), pressure pain threshold (PPT) and body flexibility (p<0.05) and significant decreases in self-reported pain intensity, anxiety and muscle tension (p<0.001). For all outcomes, similar changes were not observed in the control group. The adjusted post-test mean values for TPF, HF, PPT and body flexibility were significantly higher in the TTM group when compared with the control group (p<0.01) and the values for pain intensity, anxiety and muscle tension were significantly lower. We conclude that TTM can increase HRV and improve stress-related parameters in this patient population.
Article
Horse trekking (HT) is having a stroll on a horse along a walking trail in a forest, field, and/or sandy beach. Generally in HT, horses exercise in tandem line outside the riding facilities. Because the leading horse will be confronted with stressors in the forefront, we hypothesized that the leading horse shows higher stress responses than the following one. In order to verify the hypothesis, we compared short-term stress responses between each position in six horses. Exercise consisted of 15 min of ground riding and 45 min of HT with walking and trotting. Heart rate variability was analyzed for 5 min at 30, 60, and 90 min after the exercising period. There was no significant difference in heart rate during exercise between leading and following positions. The high frequency / low frequency power band of heart rate variability, an index of sympathetic nervous activity, after exercise, tended to be higher in the leading position than following one (P < 0.1). The result in this study can suggest that the leading horse was in a higher stressed state than the following horse after HT.
Article
To evaluate effects of touch massage (TM) on stress responses in healthy volunteers. A crossover design including twenty-two (mean age=28.2) healthy volunteers (11 male and 11 female) cardiac autonomic tone was measured by heart rate (HR) and heart rate variability (HRV). Stress hormone levels (cortisol) were followed in saliva. We also measured blood glucose and serum insulin. Extracellular (ECV) levels of glucose, lactate, pyruvate and glycerol were followed using the microdialysis technique (MD). TM was performed on hands and feet for 80 min, during control, participants rested in the same setting. Data were collected before, during, and after TM and at rest. Saliva cortisol, serum glucose, and serum insulin were collected before, immediately following, and 1 h after intervention or control, respectively. After 5 min TM, HR decreased significantly, indicating a reduced stress response. Total HRV and all HRV components decreased during intervention. Saliva cortisol and insulin levels decreased significantly after intervention, while serum glucose levels remained stable. A similar, though less prominent, pattern was seen during the control situation. Only minor changes were observed in ECV levels of glucose (a decrease) and lactate (an increase). No significant alterations were observed in glycerol or pyruvate levels throughout the study. There were no significant differences between groups in ECV concentrations of analyzed substances. In healthy volunteers, TM decreased sympathetic nervous activity, leading to decreased overall autonomic activity where parasympathetic nervous activity also decreased, thereby maintaining the autonomic balance.
Article
Based on cortisol release, a variety of situations to which domestic horses are exposed have been classified as stressors but studies on the stress during equestrian training are limited. In the present study, Warmblood stallions (n=9) and mares (n=7) were followed through a 9 respective 12-week initial training program in order to determine potentially stressful training steps. Salivary cortisol concentrations, beat-to-beat (RR) interval and heart rate variability (HRV) were determined. The HRV variables standard deviation of the RR interval (SDRR), RMSSD (root mean square of successive RR differences) and the geometric means standard deviation 1 (SD1) and 2 (SD2) were calculated. Nearly each training unit was associated with an increase in salivary cortisol concentrations (p<0.01). Cortisol release varied between training units and occasionally was more pronounced in mares than in stallions (p<0.05). The RR interval decreased slightly in response to lunging before mounting of the rider. A pronounced decrease occurred when the rider was mounting, but before the horse showed physical activity (p<0.001). The HRV variables SDRR, RMSSD and SD1 decreased in response to training and lowest values were reached during mounting of a rider (p<0.001). Thereafter RR interval and HRV variables increased again. In contrast, SD2 increased with the beginning of lunging (p<0.05) and no changes in response to mounting were detectable. In conclusion, initial training is a stressor for horses. The most pronounced reaction occurred in response to mounting by a rider, a situation resembling a potentially lethal threat under natural conditions.
Article
It is widely accepted that transport is stressful for horses, but only a few studies are available involving horses that are transported regularly and are accustomed to transport. We determined salivary cortisol immunoreactivity (IR), fecal cortisol metabolites, beat-to-beat (RR) interval, and heart rate variability (HRV) in transport-experienced horses (N=7) in response to a 2-d outbound road transport over 1370 km and 2-d return transport 8 d later. Salivary cortisol IR was low until 60 min before transport but had increased (P<0.05) 30 min before loading. Transport caused a further marked increase (P<0.001), but the response tended to decrease with each day of transport. Concentrations of fecal cortisol metabolites increased on the second day of both outbound and return transports and reached a maximum the following day (P<0.001). During the first 90 min on Day 1 of outbound transport, mean RR interval decreased (P<0.001). Standard deviations of RR interval (SDRR) decreased transiently (P<0.01). The root mean square of successive RR differences (RMSSD) decreased at the beginning of the outbound and return transports (P<0.01), reflecting reduced parasympathetic tone. On the first day of both outbound and return transports, a transient rise in geometric HRV variable standard deviation 2 (SD2) occurred (P<0.01), indicating increased sympathetic activity. In conclusion, transport of experienced horses leads to increased cortisol release and changes in heart rate and HRV, which is indicative of stress. The degree of these changes tended to be most pronounced on the first day of both outbound and return transport.
Article
Twenty healthy adults were randomly assigned to a moderate pressure or a light pressure massage therapy group, and EKGs were recorded during a 3-min baseline, during the 15-min massage period and during a 3-min postmassage period. EKG data were then used to derive the high frequency (HF), low frequency (LF) components of heart rate variability and the low to high frequency ratio (LF/HF) as noninvasive markers of autonomic nervous system activity. The participants who received the moderate pressure massage exhibited a parasympathetic nervous system response characterized by an increase in HF, suggesting increased vagal efferent activity and a decrease in the LF/HF ratio, suggesting a shift from sympathetic to parasympathetic activity that peaked during the first half of the massage period. On the other hand, those who received the light pressure massage exhibited a sympathetic nervous system response characterized by decreased HF and increased LF/HF.
Article
We studied power spectral analysis of heart rate (HR) variability in the horse, with the hypothesis that the quantitative information provided by the spectral analysis of HR variability reflects the interaction between sympathetic and parasympathetic regulatory activities. For this purpose, electrocardiogram, blood pressure (BP) and respiratory (Resp) waveform were simultaneously recorded from Thoroughbred horses (3-5 years old) and analyzed by power spectrum. There were two major spectral components at low-frequency (LF) and high-frequency (HF) bands for HR variability. The peak of Resp variability clearly occurred at the HF range. In contrast to Resp variability, the power spectra of BP variability occurred at lower frequencies. The maximum coherence between HR and Resp variabilities and HR and BP variabilities occurred at approximately 0.15 and approximately 0.03 Hz, respectively. These relationships were similar to the ensemble spectra. On the basis of these data, we have defined two frequency bands of interest: LF (0.01-0.07 Hz) and HF (0.07-0.6 Hz). Therefore, we believe that power spectral analysis of HR variability provides a very powerful technique for assessing autonomic nervous activity in the horse.
Article
Forty-one Dutch Warmblood immature horses were used in a study to quantify temperamental traits on the basis of heart rate (HR) and heart rate variability (HRV) measures. Half of the horses received additional training from the age of 5 months onwards; the other half did not. Horses were tested at 9, 10, 21 and 22 months of age in a novel object and a handling test. During the tests, mean HR and two heart variability indices, e.g. standard deviation of beat-to-beat intervals (SDRR) and root mean square of successive beat-to-beat differences (rMSSD), were calculated and expressed as response values to baseline measures. In both tests, horses showed at all ages a significant increase in mean HR and decrease in HRV measures, which suggests a marked shift of the balance of the autonomic nervous system towards a sympathetic dominance. In the novel object test, this shift was more pronounced in horses that had not been trained. Furthermore, statistical analysis showed that the increase in mean HR could not be entirely explained by the physical activity. The additional increase in HR, the nonmotor HR, was more pronounced in the untrained horses compared to the trained. Hence, it is suggested that this nonmotor HR might be due to the level of emotionality. HR variables showed consistency between years, as well as within the second year. These tests bring about a HR response in horses, part of which may indicate a higher level of emotionality; and horses show individual consistency of these HR variables over ages. Therefore, it is concluded that mean HR and HRV measures used with these tests quantify certain aspects of a horse's temperament.
Article
At present, there is little scientific evidence that postexercise manual massage has any effect on the factors associated with the recovery process. The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of massage against a resting control condition upon femoral artery blood flow (FABF), skin blood flow (SKBF), skin (SKT), and muscle (MT) temperature after dynamic quadriceps exercise. Thirteen male volunteers participated in 3 x 2-min bouts of concentric quadriceps exercise followed by 2 x 6-min bouts of deep effleurage and pétrissage massage or a control (rest) period of similar duration in a counterbalanced fashion. Measures of FABF, SKBF, SKT, MT, blood lactate concentration (BLa), heart rate (HR), and blood pressure (BP) were taken at baseline, immediately after exercise, as well as at the midpoint and end of the massage/rest periods. Data were analyzed by two-way ANOVA. Significant main effects were found for all variables over time due to effects of exercise. Massage to the quadriceps did not significantly elevate FABF (end-massage 760 +/- 256 vs end-control 733 +/- 161 mL x min(-1)), MT, BL, HR, and BP over control values (P < 0.05). SKBF (end-massage 150 +/- 49 vs end control 6 +/- 4 au) SKT (end-massage 32.2 +/- 0.9 vs end-control 31.1 +/- 1.3degreesC) were elevated after the application of massage compared with the control trial (P < 0.05). From these data it is proposed that without an increase in arterial blood flow, any increase in SKBF is potentially diverting flow away from recovering muscle. Such a response would question the efficacy of massage as an aid to recovery in postexercise settings.
Article
Heart rate variability (HRV) reflects an influence of autonomic nervous system on heart work. In healthy subjects, ratio between low and high frequency components (LF/HF ratio) of HRV spectra represents a measure of sympatho-vagal balance. The ratio was defined by the authorities as an useful clinical tool, but it seems that it fails to summarise sympatho-vagal balance in a clinical setting. Value of the method was re-evaluated in several categories of cardiac patients. HRV was analysed from 24-hour Holter ECGs in 132 healthy subjects, and 2159 cardiac patients dichotomised by gender, median of age, diagnosis of myocardial infarction or coronary artery surgery, left ventricular systolic function and divided by overall HRV into several categories. In healthy subjects, LF/HF ratio correlated with overall HRV negatively, as expected. The paradoxical finding was obtained in cardiac patients; the lower the overall HRV and the time-domain indices of vagal modulation activity were the lower the LF/HF ratio was. If used as a measure of sympatho-vagal balance, long-term recordings of LF/HF ratio contradict to clinical finding and time-domain HRV indices in cardiac patients. The ratio cannot therefore be used as a reliable marker of autonomic activity in a clinical setting.
Horse massage for horse owners: Improve your horse's health and wellbeing
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Effect of classic massage therapy on the heart rate of horses working in hippotherapy. Case study
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Effect of classic massage therapy on the heart rate of horses working in hippotherapy. Case study
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