Equine Physiology

Whole body vibration in horses

Dr. Huseman and her research horseDr. Chelsie Huseman conducts research and has interests in areas of skeletal adaptation to exercise. Her most recent work includes testing whole body vibration and its effect on the skeleton in the pig and horse.

Whole body vibration (WBV) has been shown to elicit adaptive responses in the skeleton, such as increased bone mass and strength. This experiment was designed to determine the effects of WBV on bone turnover and mineralization. Twenty yearling, Quarter Horses were randomly assigned to either receive WBV for 30 min/d, 5 d/wk at a magnitude of 1-2 mm and frequency of 50 Hz for 120 d or serve as a Control (no vibration). Utilizing digital radiographs, bone mineral content was determined by measuring the maximum radiographic bone aluminum equivalency (RBAE) value. Serum was also collected to measure biochemical markers of bone formation (osteocalcin, OC) and bone resorption (carboxy-terminal collagen crosslinks, CTX-I). WBV protocol utilized in this study did not elicit any significant osteogenic (bone formation) response. These data suggest that the frequency and amplitude applied to the equine skeleton by WBV in this study was insufficient to overcome osteopenia (reduced bone mass) from immobilization due to stalling and disuse. Additionally, the intensity of the WBV applied may not elicit a measurable bone remodeling response with the imaging techniques utilized. Further studies are warranted to determine the WBV protocol to benefit the skeleton of stalled horses at risk for osteopenia.


Skeletal response to whole body vibration and dietary calcium and phosphorus in growing pigs By Chelsie Huseman

Athletic performance in racehorses

Dr. Sarah White conducts research with equine physiology and her most recent work involves enhancing selection of horses that may show success during an intense exercise training program and, eventually, competition. We are investigating skeletal muscle mitochondrial bioenergetics in weanlings to correlate with incidence of breakdown, athletic performance (racing, cutting, reining, etc.), and sales performance over a horse’s lifetime. Early prediction of which individuals will not experience severe injury during training and competition will positively impact animal welfare, consumer perception, and economics of
horse racing. This analysis may also assist in choosing horses that will persevere through the intense physical demands of race training and go on to perform at the highest level.


Differential skeletal muscle mitochondrial characteristics of weanling racing-bred horses By Sarah H White, Christine M Latham, Clara K Fenger

Submaximal exercise training improves mitochondrial efficiency in the gluteus medius but not in the triceps brachii of young equine athletes By Sarah. H. White, Lori K. Warren, Chengcheng Li & Stephanie E. Wohlgemut

Horse and rider interactions during activity/therapy riding sessions

This year, Dr. Jessia Leatherwood’s laboratory will take on a multi-disciplinary approach in applying the study of biomechanics and neuroscience to the human-horse interaction during equine-assisted activity/therapy (EAA/T) riding sessions. The EAA/T industry benefits people with a wide variation of disabilities. Our objective is to research evidence-based methods of best practice in order to enhance potential benefits riders derive from EAA/T. Specific areas of interest include monitoring change in the rider’s emotional state and neuromuscular engagement.


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