• horse;
  • exercise physiology;
  • pulmonary function tests;
  • oxygen uptake;
  • overtraining


This review addresses the physiology of performance horses in the context of functional tests aimed at assisting clinicians in the search for explanations of the individual's limitations, actual or perceived as below expectation. The intention is to assist clinicians who are faced frequently by owners or trainers seeking explanations for poor performance; and for research workers as a basis on which to proceed in their search for new methodologies, particularly those that can be applied in the field as for treadmill exercise.

The review sets out fundamental physiological pathways, the entailment of which may represent a limiting factor to performance, while taking into account the individual's status, including anamnesis and the possibility of actual disease being present.

Tests that assess the possible roles of several body systems, as causes of limited performance, are discussed. These systems include pulmonary, cardiovascular and neuromuscular systems. The evaluation of anaerobic and aerobic energy pathways is also discussed.

Emphasis is given to the assessment of pulmonary ventilation by techniques such as spirometry and ergospirometry. These techniques are considered to be of particular potential for further development.