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Abstract

Objective—To determine the influence of transportation by road and air on heart rate (HR) and HR variability (HRV) in horses.

Animals—6 healthy horses.

Procedures—ECG recordings were obtained from horses before (quarantine with stall rest [Q]; 24 hours) and during a journey that included transportation by road (RT; 4.5 hours), waiting on the ground in an air stall (W; 5.5 hours), and transportation by air (AT; 11 hours); HR was determined, and HRV indices of autonomic nervous activity (low-frequency [LF; 0.01 to 0.07 Hz] and high-frequency [HF; 0.07 to 0.6 Hz] power) were calculated.

Results—Mean ± SD HRs during Q, RT, W, and AT were 38.9 ± 1.5 beats/min, 41.7 ± 5.6 beats/min, 41.5 ± 4.3 beats/min, and 48.8 ± 5.6 beats/min, respectively; HR during AT was significantly higher than HR during Q. The LF power was significantly higher during Q (3,454 ± 1,087 milliseconds2) and AT (3,101 ± 567 milliseconds2) than it was during RT (1,824 ± 432 milliseconds2) and W (2,072 ± 616 milliseconds2). During Q, RT, W, and AT, neither HF powers (range, 509 to 927 milliseconds2) nor LF:HF ratios (range, 4.1 to 6.2) differed significantly. The HR during RT was highly correlated with LF power (R 2 = 0.979), and HR during AT was moderately correlated with the LF:HF ratio (R 2 = 0.477).

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—In horses, HR and HRV indices during RT and AT differed, suggesting that exposure to different stressors results in different autonomic nervous influences on HR.

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in American Journal of Veterinary Research