Stress Level Effects on Sport Performance During Trotting Races in Spanish Trotter Horses

Abstract: The stress level is suggested to have a negative effect on horses during equestrian competitions, specifically in trotter racing. The main objectives of this study were to measure stress levels in Spanish Trotter Horse races with a reliable non-invasive method, and determining the threshold level of stress that leads to the best performance results and also shows when the stress perceived by the horse becomes distress.

One hundred and thirty individuals were evaluated, measuring their performance (based on racing time per kilometre (TPK) and their stress (based on eye temperature, assessed with infrared thermography, and heart rate) in different competitions. Eye temperature and heart rate measurements were collected 2h before the race and immediately following the race, and the increases of eye temperature (∆ET) and heart rate were estimated.

∆ET and eye temperature before the race showed significant differences related to the performance level after a GLM analysis. The segmented regression analysis indicated that when the animal was more stressed before the race than just after finishing it (∆ET<0), it showed the poorest competition results, and from the breakpoint (reached at ∆ET=-0.97%), horse's performance started to improve.

When comparing eye temperature variables and TPK with a response surface plot, TPK was optimum (77.27s) when the eye temperature before the race and ∆ET reached values of 37.61°C and 7.57%, respectively. Therefore, the stress levels of the horse before the race influence its competition results, and ∆ET during competitions reaching a threshold point is related to an improvement in performance results.

Access the full study here.

Reference: Sara Negro, Ester Bartolomé, Antonio Molina, Marina Solé, Mª Dolores Gómez, Mercedes Valera (2018) Res Vet Sci Jun;118:86-90

Interested in learning more about thermal imaging? Request a demonstration with Digatherm and discover how veterinary thermography can help you find problem areas faster and easily monitor treatment progress.

Request a Demonstration


Back to Blog