Respiratory mechanics of horses during stepwise treadmill exercise tests, and the effect of clenbuterol pretreatment on them



Normal Standardbred horses were given an incremental exercise test on a horizontal treadmill to evaluate the influence of exercise on gas exchange, resistance, dynamic compliance and inertance of the respiratory system. The exercise test consisted of 2 min exercise steps at each of the following speeds: 2.4 m/sec (walk), 4.5 m/sec (slow trot), 7.0 m/sec (fast trot) and 10 m/sec (gallop). At rest and after 1 min of exercise at each step, airflow, tidal volume, respiratory frequency, pharyngeal, midoesophageal and transdiaphragmatic pressures and arterial blood gas tensions were measured. The same horses were subsequently treated intravenously with clenbuterol (0.8 μg/kg) and an identical exercise test and measurement performed 10 min after clenbuterol injection. In response to exercise, there were large increases in tidal volume, respiratory frequency, airflow and pressures. Exercise was associated with a decrease in upper airway resistance but total pulmonary resistance was unchanged. Exercise did not alter inertance or dynamic compliance, horses became hypoxaemic, and at 10 m/sec (galloping) also developed hypercarbia. Treatment with clenbuterol did not alter any of these measurements in response to exercise. These data suggest that dilation of upper airways occurs during exercise, and that inertial forces are important in strenuously exercising horses and may influence the accuracy of dynamic compliance determinations at high exercise intensities.