• horse;
  • minimal model;
  • endurance exercise;
  • insulin sensitivity;
  • glycaemic dietetics;
  • glucose metabolism


Reasons for performing study: Glucose regulation is critical for health and exercise performance.

Objectives: To quantify the effects of exercise and diet on insulin sensitivity (SI), glucose effectiveness (Sg), acute insulin response to glucose (AIRg) and disposition index (DI) in horses.

Methods: This study applied the minimal model of glucose and insulin dynamics to exercise-trained Arabian geldings during rest or constant moderate-intensity exercise after 8 weeks adaptation to feeds high in sugar and starch (SS, n=6) or fat and fibre (FF, n = 6). Horses underwent 2 frequently sampled i.v. glucose tolerance tests (FSIGT). For both tests, a resting basal sample was collected, followed by an i.v. dose of 600 mg/kg bwt glucose defining 0 min of the test. Insulin (0.01 iu/kg bwt) was administered 20 min post glucose for each test. Resting horses were sampled for 240 min. The exercise FSIGT began after each horse had warmed-up for 25 min on the treadmill at which point they had reached the speed representing 60% of their predetermined lactate breakpoint maintained for the rest of the FSIGT. Exercising horses were sampled identically to rest, but for only 150 min post glucose.

Results: Exercise increased (P≤0.008) SI, Sg and DI and decreased AIRg in all horses. Overall, horses adapted to FF tended to have higher SI (P=0.070) and DI (P = 0.058). During exercise, FF horses tended to have higher (P≤0.085) SI and DI, than SS horses and these variables tended to be increased more (P≤0.075) by exercise in FF horses than SS horses.

Conclusions: Insulin and glucose dynamics adjust during exercise, increasing plasma glucose uptake, presumably to meet demand by contracting skeletal muscle. Trained horses adapted to a high fat diet showed greater metabolic adjustment during exercise than trained horses adapted to a high starch and sugar diet, potentially allowing them to better meet energy demands.

Potential relevance: Nutrition and exercise impact glucose and insulin dynamics, potentially influencing health and performance.