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Aust Vet J. 2005 Jan-Feb;83(1-2):62-7.

Interaction of saddle girth construction and tension on respiratory mechanics and gas exchange during supramaximal treadmill exercise in horses.

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University of Melbourne, Veterinary Clinical Centre, Princes Highway, Werribee, Victoria.



To determine the effect of girth construction and tension on respiratory mechanics and gas exchange during supramaximal treadmill exercise in horses.


Six healthy detrained Thoroughbred horses were exercised on a treadmill inclined at 10% at 110% VO2max. Horses were instrumented for respiratory mechanics and gas exchange studies, and data were recorded during incremental exercise tests. The animals were exercised for 2 min at 40% VO2max, and samples and measurements were collected at 1 min 45 sec. After 2 min, speed was increased to that estimated at 110% VO2max and data was collected at 45 sec, 90 sec and every 30 sec thereafter at this speed until the horses fatigued. Horses were run on three occasions with the same racing saddle and saddle packing but using two different girths, either an elastic girth (EG) or a standard canvas girth (SCG) which is nonelastic. A run with 5 kg tension applied to a standard canvas girth was the control for each horse, with additional runs at 15 kg using either the standard canvas girth or using the elastic girth. The runs were randomised and tensions applied were measured at end exhalation whilst at rest.


Increasing girth tension was not associated with changes in respiratory mechanical or gas exchange properties. Although girths tightened to 15 kg tension had short run to fatigue times this was not found to be significantly different to girths set at 5 kg resting tension. Girth tensions declined at end exhalation in horses nearing fatigue.


Loss in performance associated with high girth tensions is not due to alteration of respiratory mechanics. Loss in performance may be related to inspiratory muscles working at suboptimal lengths due to thoracic compression or compression of musculature around the chest. However, these changes are not reflected in altered respiratory mechanical or gas exchange properties measured during tidal breathing during supramaximal exercise. Other factors may hasten the onset of fatigue when horses exercise with tight girths and further studies are required to determine why excessively tight girths affect performance.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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