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Keywords:

  • horse;
  • novelty stimuli;
  • emotional stress;
  • neuroendocrine responses;
  • running performance

Abstract

This study investigated the effects of novelty stress on neuroendocrine activities and running performance in Thoroughbred horses. First, to examine the neuroendocrine responses to novelty stress, we exposed horses to two types of novel environmental stimuli (audiovisual or novel field stimuli). After the stimuli, plasma concentrations of vasopressin, catecholamines and adrenocorticotropin (ACTH), as well as heart rates, were significantly increased in each experiment. Second, we investigated neuroendocrine activities during incremental exercise. Plasma concentrations of vasopressin, catecholamines, ACTH and blood lactate increased as the exercise load increased. Finally, we investigated the effects of novelty stimuli on neuroendocrine activities and running performance during supra-maximal exercise (110% VHRmax). When the novelty stimuli were presented to horses, the increases in plasma vasopressin and catecholamines due to exercise load were significantly smaller than those in the control experiments. Blood lactate during supra-maximal exercise was also significantly lower and total run time until exhaustion was prolonged in the novel environmental stimuli compared to the control. These results suggest that novelty stimuli facilitate vasopressin release from the posterior pituitary in addition to activating the sympatho-adrenomedullary and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axes in thoroughbred horses, and increase exercise capacity, resulting in improvement of running performance during supra-maximal exercise.