Nagy, Murray and Dyson recently published a study in the first issue of the 2014 Equine Veterinary Journal (Volume 46, pages 38-44), titled Descriptive epidemiology and risk factors for eliminations from Fédération Equestre Internationale endurance rides due to lameness and metabolic reasons (2008-2011). In light of the upcoming Alltech World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France in August 2014, this article is important to highlight some of the reasons horses do not finish events, and perhaps gives insight as to what might help overall performance at elite (FEI) events.
In this retrospective study, it was found that approximately half of horses competing in FEI endurance rides of 100-160km completed the races without being eliminated. Thirty percent of horses starting such an endurance race were eliminated due to lameness, while 8.7% of all starting horses were eliminated due to metabolic reasons. Of interest, the risk of elimination due to lameness or metabolic reasons were higher in areas of South America and the Middle East, compared to areas such as Central and Southern Europe, which suggests that perhaps environmental or terrain conditions may play a role. Unfortunately, the study did not report the specific causes of lameness or further describe the metabolic reasons for elimination.
Metabolic reasons for elimination may include dehydration and electrolyte balance, exhaustion, colic, rhabdomyolysis or thumps (synchronous diaphragmatic flutter). Of these, many may be related to water intake, diet and nutrient (particularly electrolyte) supplementation. The authors suggest that a more detailed investigation is warranted. It would be of great interest to further explore the metabolic and perhaps nutritional factors associated with performance, not only in endurance horses, but other elite events held at the FEI level – such as show jumping, eventing, reining and dressage.