Updated: May 8
A horse’s performance is dependent on a number of factors, including health, nutrition, and fitness. Energy is defined as the capacity to do work. The amount of energy available for muscular work is the most important factor in a horse’s performance.
Athletic performance requires the efficient utilization of large amounts of energy transformed by metabolic pathways from chemical to kinetic energy for muscle contraction. This kinetic energy is in the form of adenosine triphosphate, or ATP. The muscles are capable of storing limited amounts of ATP for muscle contraction, but all athletic events need a currency flow of this energy source.
Equine athletes are dependent on the production of ATP to run, jump, or pull. However, ATP production is dependent on the muscle’s ability to utilize fuel stores in the body, which is dependent on oxygen availability. The two main ways that the muscle utilizes fuel stores are anaerobic and aerobic metabolism. Anaerobic metabolism is not dependent on oxygen to break down fuel stores, and it provides a rapid means of producing a limited supply of energy. In the absence of oxygen, only carbohydrates may be metabolized for ATP production. The end products of anaerobic metabolism are lactate and heat.
Horses that utilize anaerobic metabolism usually have heart rates of greater than 150 beats per minute during exercise, meaning the intensity of the performance is high. Any event that lasts less than one minute at high intensities strictly uses anaerobic metabolism to produce ATP. Quarter Horses are capable of sprinting 400 yards in less than 20 seconds–a good example of muscles using anaerobic metabolism.
Research published in Veterinary Medicine showed that following high-energy workouts, muscular ATP levels decrease substantially. However, to get energy levels back on track, trainers and owners can take advantage of ATP for their horses.
That’s because ATP has the ability to replenish muscles. Sufficient energy levels are essential for healthy cells to function properly. ATP contains d-ribose, a naturally occurring carbohydrate that plays several roles in a horse’s recovery process. First, it improves the regeneration in muscular ATP levels after demanding workouts such as a horserace or competitions. Next, d-ribose offers energy benefits to the heart during demanding exercises. What’s more, it can limit the increased production of oxygen free-radicals.
It may sound confusing, but ATP is a critical component in energizing horses. When it comes to horse training, performance, and recovery, the amount of this vital component can determine how quickly and efficiently the horse’s body can perform.
As horse owners might imagine, when ATP levels are low, the equines cannot – on a cellular level – recover as quickly. But with ATP supplements, horses’ recuperation process may noticeably improve, as a number of studies have shown.
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