Pre- and post-race handling of horses may impact performance. The impact of a number of interventions, such as cold-hosing before and / or after fast work, water deprivation and dietary interventions will be evaluated in untrained horses acclimatised to treadmill exercise.
As companion animals, horses are fed for reasons other than to simply provide adequate nutrients for maintenance or production. Horse owners like their horses to be in good condition and in achieving this, often feed horses above the energy needs for their level of physical work. This may result in the horse becoming flighty and unruly. Whether this is an effect of excess energy or other learned behaviours is up for debate. It may not only be the amount of energy in the diet that is the problem but the type of energy. Horses that are fed a high non-structural carbohydrate diet may experience 'sugar-highs' not experienced when fed an isocaloric high fibre/fat diets. This has implications for feeding management especially when horses are put in novel situations such as competitions. Previous studies have developed a reliable and objective measure of flight speed in horses, permitting evaluation of reactive behaviour in horses. We hypothesise that diet may impact demeanour and behaviour, resulting in alteration in flight speed in horses.
Evaluation of the fetus in late gestation is an important method of ensuring delivery of a healthy foal at the correct time. This project will use a variety of techniques (such as transabdominal and rectal ultrasound examination, hormone profiling, fetal heart rate monitoring) to evaluate fetal well being. The project would suit a mid-year project start, or a clinical (veterinary) Honours program.
Ultrasound evaluation of heart function provides a reliable tool for the evaluation of many aspects of cardiac efficiency in horses. This project will develop protocols for the echocardiographic interrogation of cardiac function in healthy adult horses at rest and following pharmacological (dobutamine) challenges.