Exercise induced hormonal and metabolic changes in Thoroughbred horses: effects of conditioning and acepromazine



Nine Thoroughbred horses were assessed to determine the normal response of insulin, glucose, Cortisol, plasma potassium (K) and erythrocyte K through conditioning and to exercise over 400 and 1,000 m. In addition, adrenaline, noradrenaline, Cortisol, plasma K, erythrocyte K and L-lactate concentrations were evaluated in response to maximal exercise with and without the administration of acepromazine. Conditioning caused no obvious trends in plasma K, erythrocyte K, insulin or glucose concentration. Serum Cortisol increased (P < 0.05) from the initial sample at Week 1 to Weeks 4 and 5 (attributed to a response to training), and then decreased. During conditioning, three horses had low erythrocyte K concentrations (< 89.3 mmol/litre). Further work is needed to define the significance of low erythrocyte K concentrations in the performance horse. In all tests maximal exercise increased plasma K, glucose and Cortisol concentrations, whereas insulin and erythrocyte K concentrations decreased. Thirty minutes following exercise, plasma K and erythrocyte K concentrations returned to resting values, whereas glucose and Cortisol concentrations continued to increase and the insulin concentration also was increased. The magnitude of the changes varied for pre-conditioned vs post-conditioned exercise tests and the duration of exercise. The administration of acepromazine prior to exercise over 1,000 m failed to alter the circulating noradrenaline and adrenaline concentrations in anticipation of exercise or 2 mins following exercise. Acepromazine administration, however, did cause lower L-lactate concentration 2 mins (P < 0.03) and 30 mins (P ≤ 0.005) following exercise. Also, erythrocyte K showed a delayed return to baseline levels at 30 mins post exercise. Further evaluation of these trends may help explain the beneficial role acepromazine plays in limiting signs of exertional rhabdomyolysis when administered prior to exercise.