Horses competing in the 2019 Tevis Cup endurance ride are prepping to hit the trail on Saturday, Aug. 17. But before they load up for the trip to Northern California, they’ll get weighed as part of a research project to investigate the correlation between weight and hydration in horses during endurance competitions. Jerry Gillespie DVM, PhD, of Hopland, California, will conduct the research project.
Tevis offers unique equine research opportunities, because it gathers nearly 200 top endurance athletes from across the country to traverse the difficult 100-mile course. Gillespie’s study actually begins when competing horses leave home. “We know horses dehydrate when traveling, and knowing the magnitude and starting point of dehydration is important,” he said.
The voluntary study requests competitors weigh horses before transport and keep a detailed log of the horses’ food and water intake, stops, and miles and hours traveled per day. Researchers will weigh the horses upon arrival in Auburn, California, at check-in the afternoon before Tevis’ 5 a.m. start, at two stops along the course, and at the finish.
Gillespie feels the study, sponsored by the American Endurance Ride Conference and the Western States Trail Foundation, could offer answers to the mysteries of how and why some horses seem to defend against dehydration.
“The more we do this, the more we learn,” said Gillespie.
By looking at transport as well as parameters during the event, the study offers applications beyond endurance athletes and could benefit any horse owners engaged in equine transport or strenuous competitions, he said.