Acta Vet. Brno 2011, 80: 101-105

Cortisol concentration in the saliva of horses subjected to different kinds of exercise

Katarzyna Strzelec1, Marta Kankofer2, Sławomir Pietrzak1

1Department of Horse Breeding and Use, Faculty of Animal Biology and Breeding, University of Life Science in Lublin, Poland
2Department of Animal Biochemistry and Physiology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Life Science in Lublin, Poland

The aim of this study was to characterize the stress level in sport horses subjected to exercise by measuring the cortisol concentration in their saliva. The experiment was conducted on 5 groups of horses (49 animals): one control and four groups undergoing different types of exercises. The saliva samples were collected 3 × a day: late at night (between 20:00 and 23:00 h), early in the morning (between 5:00 and 8:00 h) and directly after the exercise. The concentration of cortisol was measured by the enzyme-immunoassay programme. The highest cortisol concentration was observed for the horses participating in 3-day events (8.93 nmol/dm3), whereas in the control group it was only 0.28 nmol/dm3. When compared to the cortisol concentration of other horse groups, this suggests that the stress level as measured by the cortisol concentration in saliva increases with increasing exercise intensity and its duration. The obtained results do not confirm the existence of a day rhythm of the cortisol concentration in horses. Moreover, the results may help in choosing the appropriate system of training and in improving horse welfare during competitions.


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