Reasons for performing study: Flexor tendon injury may be due to flexor muscle fatigue, contributing to fetlock joint hyperextension and tendon damage. A water treadmill provides resistance training on flexor tendon muscles, which might reduce the risk of tendon injury.
Objective: To determine the effect of water treadmill training on the properties of the gluteal and superficial digital flexor (SDF) muscles and on cardiocirculatory response to a standardised exercise test.
Methods: Five healthy unfit horses were trained on a water treadmill for 5 days/week for 4 weeks, starting with 5 min/day increasing to 20 min/day. Before and after the water treadmill training, an incremental SET was performed on a land treadmill to determine velocity at a heart rate 200 beats/min (V200) and resting gluteal and SDF muscle biopsies were obtained for biochemical analyses.
Results: There was no measurable difference in resting concentrations of gluteal or SDF muscle glycogen, lactate, ATP or glucose-6-phosphate (G6P), or activities of citrate synthase (CS), 3-hydroxyacyl CoA dehydrogenase (HAD) and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) after training and no change in V200, Lactate, glycogen, G6P and ATP concentrations were 50% lower and type 1 fibres 30% higher in SDF compared to gluteal muscles. CS and HAD activities were similar between SDF and gluteal, while LDH was lower in the SDF muscle.
Conclusions: A more strenuous water treadmill conditioning protocol may be needed to induce a training effect in gluteal and SDF muscle and heart rate response. The low substrate concentrations and oxidative capacity of SDF may predispose this muscle to catastrophic fatigue during maximal exercise.