Estimation of metabolic energy cost and heat production during a 3‐day‐event

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The metabolic power required for sustained exercise in the horse is proportional to running speed. Moderately fast speeds require substantial energy expenditure and result in the generation of a massive metabolic heat load. Quantitative estimates of energy expenditure and heat production of horses at various running speeds were developed using empirically derived data from treadmill studies. Total metabolic power represents the sum of aerobic power indicated by the rate of oxygen consumption and net anaerobic power indicated by the rate of plasma lactate accumulation. These data were applied to typical running speeds and distances for each of the 4 phases of the endurance day of an Olympic level (CCI****) 3‐day‐event to provide an estimate of the energy expenditure and heat production during each phase. In a given horse, the rates of energy expenditure and heat production are determined by running speed, while total energy expenditure and heat production are determined by a combination of running speed and duration of exercise at that intensity. The highest calculated rate of energy expenditure and heat production occurred during Phase B, the steeplechase, followed closely by Phase D, the cross‐country course. Interestingly, the highest total energy expenditure and heat production occurred on Phase C, Roads and Tracks, which is usually considered a period for cool down and recovery between the relatively high speed steeplechase and the demanding cross‐country course. Nevertheless, because the rate of energy expenditure is low during this phase, the horses would be expected to lose heat and lower body temperature during this interval. In hot and humid climates, dissipation of the exercise‐induced heat load may be compromised, leading to a narrower range of safety between the rate of heat production and the ability of the horse to dissipate this heat to the environment The results of this study could be used, should environmental conditions dictate, to provide quantitative guidelines as to how specific alterations of speed or distance of the various phases of the event would affect heat production.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-30
Number of pages8
JournalEquine Veterinary Journal
Issue number20 S
StatePublished - 1995



  • 3‐day‐event
  • exercise
  • heat production
  • horse
  • thermoregulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Equine

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