Wholesale Distributor Inquiries Welcomed!

Pound for pound, the horse is a better athlete than any domestic species...including man.

A horse’s body is like a huge bellows.
Its' breathing is dictated by the movement of its body and is in synchrony and harmony with its stride. Horses can only inhale when their front hooves are striding outward and can exhale only when all four legs come together. Thus, the breathing process is like the movement of bellows.

Unlike human runners who can take a deep breath independent of their leg movements, horses cannot take that extra-deep gulp of air when in full gallop. This means a horse with a longer stride has more time to inhale and exhale, thus allowing a horse with longer strides to breathe more deeply. Horses cannot increase their breathing rate without running faster or shortening their strides. The horse with the longer stride has an advantage, because it has more breathing time.

When a horse moves, its muscles contract by converting chemical energy into mechanical energy. For this process to occur, the blood must transport oxygen from the lungs to the muscles and other body tissues. The more intensely the horse works, the more oxygen its body needs. The more oxygen the horse's body needs, the faster its heart must beat.

How much oxygen does a horse need?
While walking, a horse consumes one liter (about 0.25 gallon) of oxygen a minute. At a racing gallop, a horse’s oxygen consumption can approach 60 liters (nearly 15 gallons) per minute! This means that horses breathe anywhere from 100 to 135 breaths per minute at extremely high gas flow rates!

Horses need a lot of oxygen when they run.
The good news is that horses carry their own emergency supply of oxygen in their spleens. The horse spleen contains extra blood. When a horse runs, its spleen contracts and forces a fresh supply of oxygen-rich red blood cells into the horse’s blood stream. This is like pumping extra oxygen into the cardiovascular system “on demand”. This supply is limited.

Any type of exercise accelerates the heart rate of a horse to as much as 60 beats per minute. During a race, a heart rate over 150 beats per minute forces a horse’s body to produce energy without the benefit of inspired (inhaled) oxygen. This energy production cannot last long without the horse becoming completely fatigued.

It is obvious that the physiological strain of a two-minute race can cause problems for horses. They may be unable to get enough oxygen to their tissues and carbon dioxide may build up to very high levels in their blood. Blood vessels in the lungs can even burst from the strain. If enough burst, the horse may bleed from its nose.

When at rest, about 35% of the total blood volume in horses is comprised of red blood cells. Horses increase their red blood cell numbers to more than 65% of the blood volume during a race. This greatly increases the horse’s ability to carry needed oxygen, but it also makes the blood thicker. Fortunately, the horse’s heart is able to overcome this viscosity.

Horses also have a tremendous ability to use the oxygen that they produce. An elite human athlete uses 70-90 milliliters of oxygen per kilogram of weight per minute. Thoroughbreds use more than 150 milliliters per kilogram per minute.

Why is oxygen so important?
Oxygen is the body's fuel. Without oxygen, a horse's body would slow and quit within a matter of seconds.

How oxygen supplementation benefits horses:
A horse’s body has a complicated set of reactions that respond to injury. Most of these processes rely on the blood vessels throughout the body. Injuries set off a cascade of biochemical reactions commonly referred to as inflammation. Oxygen is effective in relieving conditions that cause inflammation.

Acute conditions, including injuries sustained due to trauma to the legs or body, nervous system damage, or surgical trauma, all benefit from oxygen therapies. The general principle behind oxygen supplementation is that oxygenation reduces tissue swelling and enhances oxygen delivery to injured tissues by increasing the amount of dissolved oxygen in the plasma. Increasing oxygen aids in repairing and saving damaged tissues that would otherwise be lost to cellular death.

Chronic conditions, including poor healing wounds or wounds that involve a large surface areas, bone infections, internal abscesses or any other infections that result in tissue destruction, or even a loss of blood supply, also benefit from oxygen supplementation. Acute injuries or inflammatory processes can also turn chronic if left untreated. Using oxygen supplementation for these problems enhances normal body processes, like stimulating new blood vessel growth, enhancing the white blood cell's ability to kill bacteria and stimulating the of production of connective tissue cells and connective tissues.

Other uses for oxygen supplementation include addressing head and spinal trauma that may lead to a severe loss of bodily functions. These neurological problems are the result of tissue swelling within a confined space, the restriction or loss of blood and the resulting oxygen supply, and the sequential biochemical effects of oxygen deprivation on nerve tissue. Oxygen supplementation helps to reduce tissue swelling and repair injured nerve tissue.

Oxygen supplementation may also be beneficial in addressing internal abscess that develop in the lungs or in the abdomen. These abscesses are rarely diagnosed early enough. By the time these abscesses are finally diagnosed, a thick-walled fibrous tissue has surrounded the abscesses that prevent antibiotics from reaching the affected areas. As a result, prolonged antibiotic treatment often has no positive effect on these conditions. The cost of antibiotic treatment is high and there may be fatal consequences for the animal. Oxygen supplementation may enhance the effectiveness of antibiotics.

Oxygen supplementation may also be helpful in minimizing equine training injuries. Oxygen’s beneficial actions would include reducing tissue swelling as well as tissue inflammation caused by vasoconstriction. Reducing swelling decreases tissue edema and enhances the process of repairing connective tissues.

The ability to consume available oxygen is an indicator of how well a horse's body can use fuel when he is working aerobically.

Increase a horse’s ability to utilize oxygen more efficiently and you have found a way to also improve overall performance, stamina, and endurance and reduce the recovery time.

NOTICE: This information is intended for educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Consult a qualified veterinarian before using any nutritional supplements on your horses.

This information may not be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, in whole or in part, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior written permission. 

Racing picture above is called “GALLOWAY & COMPANY”  from the Collection of Randy Galloway and Don Walker.