Speed associated with plasma pH, oxygen content, total protein and urea in an 80 km race


Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia 24061-0306, USA


To test the hypothesis that endurance performance may be related quantitatively to changes in blood, we measured selected blood variables then determined their reference ranges and associations with speed during an 80 km race. The plan had 46 horses in a 2 times 2 factorial design testing a potassium-free electrolyte mix and a vitamin supplement. Blood samples were collected before the race, at 21, 37, 56 and 80 km, and 20 min after finishing, for assay of haematocrit, plasma pH, pO2, pCO2, [Na+], [K+], [Ca++], [Mg++], [Cl], lactate, glucose, urea, cortisol, α-tocopherol, ascorbate, creatine kinase, aspartate amino transferase, lipid hydroperoxides, total protein, albumin and creatinine, and erythrocyte glutathione and glutathione peroxidase. Data from 34 finishers were analysed statistically. Reference ranges for resting and running horses were wide and overlapping and, therefore, limiting with respect to evaluation of individual horses. Speed correlations were most repeatable, with variables reflecting blood oxygen transport (enabling exercise), acidity and electrolytes (limiting exercise) and total protein (enabling then, perhaps, limiting). Stepwise regressions also included plasma urea concentration (limiting). The association of speed with less plasma acidity and urea suggests the potential for fat adaptation and protein restriction in endurance horses, as found previously in Arabians performing repeated sprints. Conditioning horses fed fat-fortified and protein-restricted diets may not only improve performance but also avoid grain-associated disorders.