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Abstract - Kat Littlewood

Running into problems: Equine welfare during exercise

Given the degree of control or influence humans have over the lives of horses, it is our responsibility to ensure that they have good welfare. Humans keep and manage domestic horses for various purposes, including recreational riding and sporting activities such as racing, dressage, show jumping, eventing, endurance, hunting, polo, polocross, and western riding. However, horses engaged in strenuous exercise display physiological responses that approach the upper functional limits of key organ systems, in particular their cardiorespiratory systems. Factors that diminish these functional capacities might lead to horses experiencing unpleasant respiratory sensations, i.e., breathlessness. In this presentation, equine cardiorespiratory physiology and athletic performance will be used to illustrate the potential for various types of breathlessness to occur in exercising horses. The impact of management factors, such as rein and bit use, on the likelihood and intensity of equine breathlessness occurring during exercise will also be explored.