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Keywords:

  • horse;
  • racing;
  • multiple-day competition;
  • weight loss;
  • body condition

Summary

The gruelling race schedules maintained by horses competing in chuckwagon racing raises concern for the horses' ability to recover quickly and continue to perform at a high level. The amount of bodyweight lost and the time required for recovery of this weight loss have been used to assess the level of stress imposed on horses competing in various multiple-day events. In this study, bodyweights were obtained from 40 Thoroughbred geldings (mean ± s.e.; bodyweight 521.5 ± 4.4 kg) before and after racing during a 5 day chuckwagon race meet. Body condition score (BCS) was determined on the first and last day of competition. Comparisons were based on the number of consecutive days the horse raced. Average bodyweight loss (P = 0.039) from each race was 3.5 ± 0.3 kg (0.7% of initial bodyweight) and was not affected by the number of days the horse raced. The largest bodyweight deficit (P = 0.005) occurred within the 24 h period after their first race (5.3 ± 0.5 kg; 1.0% of initial bodyweight). Horses racing on 2–5 consecutive days retained a 4.8 ± 0.3 kg deficit (P = 0.01), which was maintained throughout the remainder of the race meet. Horses began and ended the race meet with a BCS of 4.9 ± 0.2 and 4.7 ± 0.2, respectively (using the 1 to 9 BCS system). Although chuckwagon horses compete in a strenuous event on several consecutive days, they appear to be managed well and have the ability to maintain their bodyweight despite the physical and psychological demands of frequent racing.