Med. Weter. 74 (1), 6058, 2018

full text

Visual and behavioral assessment versus cortisol level and racing performance in Purebred Arabian horses
This paper analyses the hypothesis that there is a link between the psychophysical traits of horses trained for racing and the level of cortisol in the saliva and performance results in competitions. Based on this hypothesis, the objective of the study was to analyse the correlation between the evaluations of the psychosomatic status and the concentration of cortisol and performance parameters in racing horses. The study was carried out with 30 Purebred Arabian horses (15 stallions and 15 mares), aged 34–38 months. On the initial day of the experiment, the horses were kept in the area of the Służewiec Racetrack where they had arrived 3–4 months earlier. The horses were examined once, 2–3 days before the planned start of the first race. The examination was carried out during a daily training session. The visual and behavioural scores for the psychosomatic status of the horse were scaled from 1 to 5 and assigned by a trainer three times. The first assessment took place directly after physical exercise, the second 15 minutes following physical exercise, while the third one was 45 minutes after physical exercise. The following features were included: the manner of perspiration and some organoleptic characteristics of sweat, abdominal movements, gaze, head position and body movements during handling. The saliva for cortisol concentration measurements was sampled three times at time points coinciding with the observation of the psychosomatic status of the horses. The concentration of cortisol was determined with the immune-enzymatic method. In addition, an analysis of the selected performance parameters was conducted. The multivariate analysis of variance for repeated measurements, t-Tukey’s test and Spearman's rank correlations were performed. It was demonstrated that the assessment of the psychosomatic status in Purebred Arabian horses may be applied based only on an analysis of some parameters determined directly after physical exercise or during the first minutes of resting (regeneration). These elements mainly include the manner of sweating and various organoleptic features of the sweat. It was also emphasized that non-observable body movements, calming down during handling, and regular abdominal movements are beneficial for stallions..
Key words: Purebred Arabian horses, psychosomatic state, cortisol, racing