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Warmups Improve Energy Use
WRITTEN BY: RIRDC Equine Research News   [February 1996]

Prior to exercise, it is common practice in human athletics to perform a warm-up. This helps to improve the blood supply to the muscles and also increases the rate of some of the important metabolic processes in the body. In horses, there is considerable variation, with Standardbred horses often undertaking quite a substantial warm-up prior to racing while Thoroughbred racehorses may receive little warm-up before they race. A recent study from the Equine Performance Laboratory at the University of Sydney (CM Tyler, DR Hodgson and RJ Rose (1996) Effect of a warm-up on energy supply during high intensity exercise in horses. Equine Veterinary Journal Vol.28, Pg. 117), has shown some unique differences of horses compared to human athletes at the start of fast exercise and as a result of warm-up.

Thirteen Standardbred horses were galloped at the equivalent of racing speeds on a treadmill and the amount of oxygen used by the body measured. The researchers found that horses increased the rate at which they used oxygen much more quickly than human athletes, with horses reaching 95% of their peak oxygen uptake after only 30 seconds of exercise compared with several minutes in humans. A warm-up at the equivalent of a slow canter for 5 minutes prior to exercise resulted in more efficient use of oxygen, with oxygen sources providing about 80% of the total energy requirements after warm-up compared with about 70% when the same horses did not undertake a warm-up. This is important because energy sources for exercise that utilise oxygen (aerobic sources) are more efficient and result in less lactic acid production than the energy sources that do not use oxygen (anaerobic energy). A warm-up prior to racing and other competitive exercise may be helpful in ensuring the optimal performance for horses. More research is necessary to determine what is the ideal warm-up speed and how long the effect of warm-up lasts.

Reprinted from the RIRDC Equine Research News with the permission of the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation.

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