2018 tevis cup research

When the 63rd Tevis Cup event kicks off at 5:15 a.m. on Saturday July 28, 156 of the top endurance horse and rider teams are slated to start the cross-country quest to cover 100 miles within 24 hours. This event has long provided a unique opportunity to conduct research on well-conditioned endurance horses working in extreme conditions, and this year is no exception.

Researchers studying this year’s Tevis field will include David Horohov, PhD veterinary science chairman and director of the University of Kentucky’s Gluck Equine Research Center, in Lexington, and Allen Page, DVM, PhD, a veterinarian and scientist at the Gluck Center. They plan to continue their research started in racehorses and look at links between exercise and inflammation in equine athletes.

“The team has developed a method where a single 3-cc blood sample can test for multiple equine inflammatory and anti-inflammatory markers, as well as multiple early injury marker candidates,” said Mike Peralez, DVM, Tevis’ head veterinarian, who also competes in endurance riding.

At a pre-ride welcome event Peralez urged riders to participate in the voluntary blood draw, as he believe its applications could range beyond endurance or race horses and even have human applications.

“We want to help the riders finish, but the vet teams’ first priority is the welfare of the horse,” he said. “Research opens up the possibility of new tools.”

Analyzing 2017 Research Results

At the same time, researchers who gathered data during 2017 ride are still analyzing their findings.

Last year Melissa Esser, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, and Hal Schott, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, both of Michigan State University, in East Lansing, conducted ultrasound scans at four 100-mile endurance events across the United State, including Tevis, where they collected 63% of the scans included in their study.

“Our goals were to determine if transabdominal ultrasound could identify decreased gastrointestinal motility in the stomach and small intestine,” Esser told The Horse. They also sought to determine “if decreased motility seen by ultrasound could be predictive for metabolic failure.”

Esser and Schott ultrasounded each horse three times: pre-ride, post-ride (within an hour of completion or elimination), and later post-ride (two to four hours after completion or elimination for any reason). They looked specifically at four areas on each horse: stomach size (compared to rib space), small intestine in the right and left flank region, and the duodenum.

“An initial review shows a tendency for stomach size of eliminated horses to be slightly larger,” Esser said, but she noted the measurement would still fall within the normal threshold.

The team’s work continues with evaluation of the ultrasound clips and transferring of data from ride cards into spreadsheets for analysis to compare to the ultrasound data. They’re also evaluating ride speed and completion statistics.