Dr. Peter Physick-Sheard, an equine cardiovascular expert, recently gave a seminar at Canada's University of Guelph on sudden death in horses.
Physick-Sheard explained studies conducted at Mohawk Raceway that used 325 Standardbred racehorses to collect heart rhythm data. It was discovered that 18 percent of horses showed complex ventricular arrhythmias in early recovery from their workout, which is when many sudden deaths occur.
Some of the arrhythmias were quite serious. Analyses revealed associations with gait, race circumstance, trot, pace and horses that broke pace at the top of the stretch with these rhythm disturbances. Most of the horses recovered on their own.
Physick-Sheard cited a second study at Woodbine involving 439 Thoroughbred racehorses. It was discovered that Thoroughbreds had the same ventricular arrhythmias as Standardbreds, though less frequently. Interestingly, Thoroughbred racehorses have a higher rate of sudden death.
Physick-Sheard noted that there may be unique features on the data that may help define the characteristics of what horses end up dying.
Read more about the seminar at HorseTalk.
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