Oxidative stress is an imbalance of the oxidant-to-antioxidant ratio in the body. Increases in oxidative stress and changes in antioxidant status have been shown during endurance and intense exercise and eventing competition in horses. Antioxidants include vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and proteins that must be synthesized in the body or obtained from the diet. Therefore, exercise level and diet are both factors that play a role in influencing the oxidative stress and antioxidant status of the equine athlete. Along with exercise intensity and duration, diet, age, and training program can also affect oxidative stress in the horse. Several studies using exogenous supplementation of vitamin E, vitamin C, and alpha-lipoic acid have shown positive results in decreasing the effects of exercise (endurance and intense exercise)-induced oxidative stress and increasing the antioxidant status based on the markers and antioxidants measured, whereas other studies using superoxide dismutase showed little effects on the exercise horse. The “free radical theory of aging” states that long-term effects of the degenerative changes associated with aging may induce oxidative stress. However, in old horses (22 ± 2 yr), lipid peroxidation levels and blood antioxidant concentrations were similar to those found in younger but mature (12 ± 2 yr) horses both at rest and during exercise. Other studies found that yearlings (18 ± 2.4 mo) that are novel to forced exercise had less lipid peroxidation and greater antioxidant status than mature mares (13 ± 2.1 yr) prior to exercise training. Exercise training reduced oxidative stress markers and improved antioxidant status in mares, whereas few effects were seen in yearlings. This indicates that youth provided more defense against oxidative stress due to exercise than the exercise training program. Other studies during competition (endurance, jumping, eventing, and racing) have investigated the influence on oxidative stress with varying results. Despite the multitude of studies examining the levels of lipid peroxidation, antioxidant status, and other related metabolites in the horse during exercise, we still have a long way to go before we fully understand the large variation in results both with and without antioxidant supplementation.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Food Science
- Animal Science and Zoology
- Oxidative stress