What’s your horse’s show schedule like? Do you compete on back-to-back weekends? If so, it might be time to rethink that pattern—at least for show jumping horses. Results from a new Italian study suggest that five days aren’t enough for these competition horses to recover from their physical efforts. And the effects could be detrimental to their performance, health, and welfare.

The physical stress of athletic effort during competitions causes metabolic changes in muscle enzymes, leading to a fatigue that just gets compounded if the muscles can’t rest enough, said Giuseppe Piccione, PhD, of the Department of Veterinary Sciences in the University of Messina, Polo Universitario dell’Annunziata, in Messina.

“The findings obtained in our study point out that two jumping sessions over two weekends in a row were temporally too close and did not allow horses adequate muscle recovery,” Piccione said.

In their innovative study, Piccione and his fellow researchers, also from the University of Messina, investigated muscle enzyme levels in 12 jumping horses. Specifically, they took blood samples before and after jumping competitions two weekends in a row in the otherwise healthy horses. The researchers looked at serum creatine phosphokinase (CPK), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), urea, and creatinine (CREA) concentrations. Scientists have previously determined that these enzyme levels provide a reliable look at muscle damage due to exercise, Piccione said.

They found that the metabolic changes indicated muscle fatigue and risk of damage after competitions compared to befo