Fibre types, enzyme activities and substrate utilisation in skeletal muscles of horses competing in endurance rides



Venous blood samples and middle gluteal muscle biopsies were obtained from 21 horses taking part in 100 km or 50 km endurance rides. Group A consisted of seven horses competing over 100 km (four horses completed the ride), Group B consisted of the six horses that were among the 10 best over 50 km while the other eight horses of Group C completed 50 km at a slower speed. Blood lactate, glycerol and creatine kinase increased in all groups while aspartate aminotransferase levels were higher only in Group A. No change was found in blood glucose in Groups B and C while horses in Group A had lower levels after the ride. Neither fibre composition, fibre areas nor enzyme activities differed between the groups. Intramuscular glycogen content was similar before the ride in all groups. After the ride glycogen had decreased only half as much in Group C as compared to Groups A and B. Group C had a higher intramuscular triglyceride content at rest than Group B. The greatest decrease in triglyceride content after the ride was found in Group C. In Groups A and B many Type I, IIA and IIB fibres were glycogen depleted after the ride while in Group C mainly Type I and some Type IIA fibres were depleted. The results of this study show that intramuscular carbohydrate and lipid stores are both important fuels during endurance rides.