Can Physiologists Predict a Winning Horse?

The research of horses has been on going for many years, and horses are the best animals to research because of their love for running. Research has already brought to light extremely important discoveries with regard to blood clotting, blood pressure, heart rate and the role of oxygen within the blood stream.

Currently, research is being conducted at the Equine Science Centre located at Rutgers University and is being sponsored by the U.S. Army. Research with Horses is now assisting humans with finding anti-inflammatory agents in foods. As soldiers are constantly pushing themselves to the limit and running long distances in combat and training and often carry heavy loads, inflammation is very common problem and without the necessary treatment could lead to serious injury. Physiologists studying horses have shown that extracts found in black tea, orange peel and cranberry can reduce inflammation.

Researching horses is performed by allowing the animal run on a treadmill that can monitor the horses’ breathing, heart rate, performance, and many other bodily functions. Sometimes, it does prove to be challenging to get the horse on the treadmill but once the horse starts running the difficulties are soon forgotten. Research has shown that the horse’s physiology can affect its performance.

Many light hearted, yet interesting, facts have been discovered through research. For example, a horse can only breath through its nose and can only breath to the beat of its stride. In addition, the heart of a horse is a wonder of nature because it can function when their blood thickens as a result of the increase in red blood cells that their spleens release every time they run. And except for humans, horses are the only animals that sweat through pores in their skin.

Due to the fact that horses can only breath in time with their stride, inhaling when their front hooves are outward and exhaling when all four their legs come together, horses cannot increase their breathing rate, without adjusting their stride. So, horses with longer strides have more time to breathe and therefore have an advantage. Secretariat, a Triple Crown winner, was recorded to have the longest stride ever, which increased his breathing ability, but does this make him a sure winner? According to the scientist, winners cannot be predicted simply because of their stride. Horses such as Smarty Jones, that won the Kentucky Derby, has a very short stride. A race winner is made up from various factors. The horses’ psychological status, including that of the jockeys, also plays a major role in the performance of the horse. Derby runners, all average approximately the same speed. Being five lengths back in a two-mile race, means that the last horse is a mere one second behind the front runner. All thoroughbreds can be traced back to 30 ancestors, so breeding does not play such an important role as many might think.

To understand the pressure a horse’s legs sustain during running, trying putting all your weight into your middle finger. That would be the proportion of weight that a horse’s hoof sustains as it hits the ground, due to its small size, compared to rest of it’s body. Horses use a lot of oxygen when they run, and lack of oxygen to the blood vessels causes a build-up carbon dioxide, which can cause the burst of vessels, and nose bleeds.

With all this new information, can Physiologist predict a winner? Fact of the matter is, they can predict who will be in the top 5% of racing, but within the 5%, most horses perform the same. The various factors such as diet, training and the jockey is what can adjust the outcome.

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