Roped and Ridden

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Twelve clinically healthy Quarter Horses, males and females, with an average weight of kg, participants in the team roping modality were used in this research.

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The animals were submitted to similar general training programs - same intensity, velocity and duration, always conducted by the same trainer, differing only with respect to frequency. All of them also had a rest period of at least 24 hours prior to experiment commencement. The sample was divided into two groups according to training frequency: regular training group RTG, trained five times a week , composed of six horses, three males and three females, with mean age of 3. Of the six animals in each group, three were mounted by headers and three were ridden by heelers. Competition simulations were conducted on two different days, always in the morning, from 8 to 11 a.

The simulations were performed in a covered sand track in the training center. The Quarter Horses were randomly selected; half of the animals in the RTG and STG participated in the first simulation and the remaining horses were involved in the second simulation. The animals were submitted to team roping for five consecutive times, always conducted by the same pair of riders. The simulations lasted 15min for each animal, on average. Prior to exercise, all animals underwent a warm-up period of approximately 20min: 5min at walk, 10min at trot, and 5min at gallop, in a 7m circular path.

All horses were warmed by the same trainer and were subsequently submitted to exercise without resting. The study was conducted during the summer, more specifically in January.


Surface temperatures of the ocular, thoracic and pelvic limb tendon superficial and deep digital flexors , thoracolumbar and croup regions were measured by infrared thermographic imaging on both sides. Temperature measuring times were as follows: prior to exercise M0 ; immediately after exercise M1 ; one M2 , two M3 , six M4 , and 24 M5 hours after exercise. The animals were kept in the shade, at room temperature, both at the time of team roping simulation and during the intervals between temperature measurements. The maximum ocular temperatures were measured in the medial corner of the eyes.

As for the region of the distal tendons of the thoracic and pelvic limbs, analyses were performed in a rectangular area that extended from the carpometacarpal to the metacarpophalangeal joints in the thoracic limb and from the tarsometatarsal to the metatarsophalangeal joints in the pelvic limb.

Measurement in the croup region upper and lower gluteal muscles was performed on the right and left sides in a circular area, and analysis of the spine was conducted by linearity.

Table 1. Statistical analysis.

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Data were tested for normality and homogeneity of variances - prerequisites for analysis of variance. With respect to the ocular region, a significant increase in temperature was observed in the RTG two hours after exercise compared with 30 minutes before exercise, remaining high for further four hours. In the STG, the increase occurred immediately after exercise, returned to baseline one hour later, and remained at this level for another hour, rising again after six hours compared with that at baseline level.

After 24 hours, the temperature returned to baseline in both groups Fig. Regarding the thoracolumbar region, there was a significant increase in temperature in both groups immediately after exercise. In the RTG, the temperature returned to baseline level only 24 hours after exercise, whereas in the STG, the temperature returned baseline level one hour after exercise. However, the temperature rose and remained above the baseline level between two and six hours after exercise, equaling it after 24 hours Fig. A significant increase was verified immediately after exercise, returning to the baseline level only after 24 hours.

On the left side in the STG, a significant increase in temperature was observed immediately after exercise, but it returned to baseline level one hour later, rising again at two and six hours after exercise, and returning to baseline only 24 hours later. On the right side in the RTG, the temperature rose immediately after exercise and remained high for up to 24 hours Fig. Concerning the tendon region of the thoracic limbs, the temperature rose significantly shortly after exercise and returned to baseline level 24 hours later on both sides, in both groups Fig.

The same temperature changes were found in the region of the pelvic limbs in the STG, whereas in the RTG, there was no return to the baseline level in the right pelvic limb RPL and left pelvic limb LPL tendon regions 24 hours after exercise. The temperature rose significantly immediately after exercise and remained high Fig. No statistically significant difference was observed between the study groups regarding the surface temperatures of the measured regions.

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Findings of the present study showed an increase in temperature in the ocular region after team roping simulation in the STG, suggesting that even short duration exercise can cause alteration in eye temperature. Because no significant changes in eye temperature were observed between the groups, we conclude that the training frequency did not influence the rate of central heat production.

Although eye temperature is considered an alternative tool for non-invasive central temperature measurement Schaefer et al. Absence of significant increase in eye temperature immediately after exercise in the RTG may be associated with a higher adaptive capacity of these animals. Animals in the RTG are believed to have a higher cardiac output than those in the STG, enabling greater redistribution of blood to organs and tissues participating in thermolysis, including the skin, respiratory muscles, and nasal mucosa McConaghy et al.

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Decrease in temperature observed in the animals of the STG one hour after exercise was associated with the thermoregulatory activation mechanism in an attempt of these horses to avoid post-exercise hyperthermia. It is common knowledge that the capacity to modify the irrigation of different organs, adjusting it to different needs, is a characteristic of the cardiovascular system that efficiently assists with thermoregulation McConaghy et al.

The results obtained in this study show that the thermoregulatory mechanism was also efficient in the STG, since the temperatures in the thoracolumbar, croup and ocular regions returned to the baseline level one hour after the exercise. Although temporarily away from competitions and resuming training, the animals in the STG are conditioned to exercise, which explains the efficiency of their thermoregulation mechanism.

According to Hodgson , the faster the animal returns to baseline frequencies and temperatures, the better its athletic conditioning.

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Increase in surface temperature in the ocular, thoracolumbar and croup regions two and six hours after exercise coincides with the elevation of ambient temperature, which hinders heat exchange. Considering that one of the forms of heat exchange occurs by convection, through the movement of air on the surface of a body as during exercise, and that this heat exchange is efficient only when the temperature of the air that surrounds the animal is lower than its skin temperature McConaghy , when keeping the animals of the present study standing still, even in a shaded place, heat exchange became dependent on the movement of circulating air, which did not occur during the experiment.

Therefore, absence of air circulation along with increased environment temperature at these times has hindered heat loss by convection. In addition, the increase in ambient temperature, which at certain times was higher than the body temperature of healthy horses According to Robertshaw , animals gain or lose heat by conduction or convection through direct contact with hot or cold substances, including air. Another form of heat gain is through radiation; even if not directly exposed to sunlight, the body surface of an animal absorbs heat from the environment around it through long-wave radiation.

According to Tanda , increased ambient temperature results in increased central temperature, with consequent activation of the thermoregulatory mechanism. Regarding the temperatures in the assessed regions, the results obtained evidenced heat production in all of these regions after exercise and, consequently, a rise in the local temperatures.

Temporary increase in temperature occurs primarily due to the increase in muscle metabolism, as well as to increased blood flow in the region, with the aim of increasing oxygen supply and heat dissipation. In humans, for instance, blood flow may present a fold increase at exercise peak compared with the resting state Lash In this study, the temperatures of all analyzed areas returned to baseline level, except for the regions of the right and left pelvic limb tendons and the right side of the croup of horses in the RTG.

In the RTG, the temperature of the tendon region in the left and right pelvic limbs did not return to baseline level after 24 hours. These results are in disagreement with those reported in previous studies, which showed that temperature in the tendon region of the pelvic limbs of horses submitted to exercise on treadmill - consisting of five minutes at walk, slow trot, trot, and slow gallop, then back to 3-min trot, slow trot, and walk - returned to baseline level 45 minutes after exercise Simon et al. In the present study, it was observed that, before 24 hours after exercise, the surface temperatures of several regions returned to the baseline level; therefore, the thermoregulation mechanism of these animals was functional.

Thus, it is possible to conclude that the temperature increase in these regions is not associated with failure in the heat loss process, but probably with the greater burden on these areas demanded by team roping. The difference between the results of the present study and those presented by Simon et al. Animals in this sport modality are submitted to a greater burden on the pelvic tendons at the start and roping completion times.

Thus, there is a considerable difference between the movements performed on a treadmill, in which animals travel in a straight line without explosive movements, and those performed during team roping. With respect to temperature in the croup region, previous studies have shown that muscle regions, under normal conditions, have the capacity to return to baseline temperature after exercise much faster than surfaces without muscles because of their larger surface area.

However, contrary to the findings by Costa et al. During team roping, muscle contraction on the right side of the croup is more intense than that on the left side because it assists with the turning movement of the animal to the left. The high temperature in these regions is probably linked to the greater burden to which they are submitted.

According to Turner , myopathies of the croup are caused by tension in the long muscle, origin of the gluteus medius in the sacroiliac region , gluteus medius body, and gluteus insertion in the major trochanter and third trochanter of the femur. Overburden also affects the thoracic limbs of horses, since the temperatures in these regions only returned to baseline level between six and 24 hours after exercise.

At the time the header ropes the steer, his horse makes a left turn and its right thoracic limbs support much of its weight, added to the strength to drag the steer. In turn, the heeler horse supports its weight on the left thoracic limb during the turn movement Dabareiner In the present study, temperature measurements taken 24 hours after exercise could confirm whether these specific regions need more time to return to baseline level.

If this does not occur, another explanation for the presence of high temperature in these regions 24 hours after exercise may be related to localized subclinical inflammation. According to Dabareiner et al. Horses mounted by headers present higher percentage of distal injuries in the forelimbs, whereas in those ridden by heelers the number of injuries is larger in their hind limbs. Thus, the maintenance of temperature in the tendon pelvic limb and croup regions above the baseline level may be mainly associated with the need for longer heat dissipation time in these regions, since they are the most requested during movement, and secondly with maintenance of temperature above baseline level after 24 hours, which is suggestive of localized subclinical inflammation, early diagnosed by infrared thermography.

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Early diagnosis of inflammatory lesions has been reported in previous studies, and the change in superficial temperatures indicative of inflammation was verified two weeks before the animals presented with clinical signs Vaden et al. Therefore, the probable subclinical inflammation in these animals may be associated with repetitive effort of these structures, since these animals are trained constantly and, consequently, lack the time interval necessary for recovery.

Findings of the present study clearly show that frequent training might lead to damage to anatomical structures essential for athlete horses, such as tendons and muscle groups; therefore, infrared thermography could be used as an important tool to avoid more serious injuries.

According to Turner , lesions with significant clinical potential can be identified and, accordingly, the training protocol can be readjusted to prevent further injury. Team roping simulation increased the surface temperature of the distolateral thoracic and pelvic limb, croup, and thoracolumbar regions in both study groups, except for the eye temperature in the RTG. Training frequency influenced the surface temperature profile, especially in the distolateral pelvic limb, croup, and thoracolumbar regions, because of the greater burden these regions are subjected during this type of exercise.

Black J. The western performance horse, p. In: Ross W. Eds , Diagnosis and Management of Lameness in the Horse. Saunders Elsevier, St Louis. Caiado J. Costa A. Thermography in the evaluation of hindlimb muscles in horses after a cross-country test. Dabareiner R. In: Baxter G. Wiley-Blackwell, Iowa.

Lameness and poor performance in horses used for team roping: cases Dunbar M.

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