• horse;
  • training;
  • cardiac murmurs;
  • atrioventricular valve


Cardiac auscultation was carried out on 111 Thoroughbred horses age 2–5 years to test the hypothesis that athletic training might influence the development of atrioventricular (AV) valve regurgitation in young Thoroughbreds. Murmurs of valvular regurgitation were identified and graded on a 1–6 scale. There were 2 sources of auscultation data: 1) 55 2-year-old horses that were examined by auscultation before training commenced and 9 months later when at race fitness; 2) 56 horses age 2–5 years that were examined on one occasion only (25 2-year-olds, 23 3-year-olds, five 4-year-olds and five 5-year olds). All horses in the second data set were in full training and racing regularly at the time of the examination. To conclude the study, 35 horses were selected randomly from both groups of horses and examined with colour-flow Doppler echocardiography. The aim of the final part of the study was to check specificity and sensitivity of auscultation for detection of AV valve murmurs and therefore validate the auscultation findings.

Priorto training, the prevalence in 2-year-old racehorses of murmurs of mitral regurgitation and tricuspid regurgitation was 7.3% (4/55) and 12.7% (7/55), respectively. After training, the prevalence proportions increased to 21.8% (12/55) and 25.5% (14/55). After training, one horse developed a murmur characteristic of aortic regurgitation. The differences in murmur prevalence were statistically significant for mitral and tricuspid regurgitation (paired t test results: mitral regurgitation, P = 0.019; tricuspid regurgitation, P = 0.007), as were the differences in mean murmurgrade (P= 0.018 and P= 0.0006, respectively). There were no significant effects of age on the prevalence of valvular regurgitation in 56 horses examined at race fitness. Auscultation was a specific (specificity 100%) and reasonably sensitive method for detection of murmurs of mitral and tricuspid regurgitation (mitral regurgitation: positive predictive value 100%, negative predictive value 84%, tricuspid regurgitation: positive predictive value 100%, negative predictive value 65%).

These data suggest that the prevalence and grade of murmurs of mitral and tricuspid valvular regurgitation increase in 2-year-old Thoroughbreds after 9 months of athletic training. Whereas the effects of age and growth on the prevalence of murmurs cannot be ruled out from these data, this study suggests that there is an influence of athletic training on the development of atrioventicular valvular regurgitation in flat-racing Thoroughbreds.