Does Your Sport Horse Have a Huge Heart? He Might!

Often called the “athlete’s heart,” an enlarged heart in a horse is frequently accompanied by murmurs and arrhythmias.
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It's not uncommon for an owner of a particularly keen horse to affectionately say he has a “big heart.” But if that animal is a sport horse that completes intense workouts, he might, quite literally, have a huge heart.

Often called the “athlete’s heart,” an enlarged heart in a horse is often accompanied by murmurs and arrhythmias, said Rikke Buhl, PhD, exercise physiologist at the University of Copenhagen, in Denmark, at the 2014 International Society for Equitation Science (ISES), held Aug. 6-9 in Bredsten, Denmark. And while that might sound worrisome, Buhl said it’s still not clear whether athlete’s heart is actually related to the sudden equine deaths that sometimes occur during or just after exercise.

Scientists do know, however, that big hearts often mean big wins.

“Our studies actually proved what lay people have been saying for a hundred years: Horses with big hearts win more races than those with small hearts,” Buhl said

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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