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SUMMARY Bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) was performed at weekly intervals in 10 Thoroughbred horses in race training (group 1) and in 4 rested horses (group 2) for 10 weeks. Lavages were continued on a weekly basis in 4 group 1 horses for an additional 9 weeks (group 3). Cytological analysis of samples included leukocyte counts, erythrocyte counts, differential leukocyte counts, and haemosiderophage score. The mean leukocyte concentration was significantly lower in group 1(92.1 ± 4.6 cells/μL) when compared with group 2 (133.5 ± 8.2 cells/μL), P = 0.037. The differential leukocyte data were not significantly different between groups. There was a large amount of variability in the percent-age of macrophages and lymphocytes in the differential counts over time with no obvious trends. The proportion of neutrophils demonstrated a tendency to decrease over time for both groups 1 and 2. Erythrocyte counts and haemosiderin scores were significantly higher in the exercising group than the rested horses. Neither exercise nor the technique itself evoked an inflammatory response in the BAL fluid.