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Exercise and Insulin Sensitivity in HorsesBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · September 10, 2012

A study conducted by researchers at Colorado State University suggested that exercise increases insulin sensitivity in healthy horses.

Thirty-one horses of mixed breeding and normal weight were used in the study. At the beginning of the research period, body weight and fasting blood glucose and insulin levels were determined for each horse. All horses were housed in box stalls when they were not exercising, and were fed Bermudagrass hay twice a day and a concentrate meal three times a day. Exercise periods were turnout, walking under tack, or walking and trotting under tack.

Moderate exercise (being ridden at a walk and a trot) performed five days a week seemed to benefit insulin sensitivity. However, turnout alone did not seem to have the same effect.

Insulin resistance is often found in obese, sedentary horses. This study showed that insulin sensitivity is increased by moderate exercise in young, healthy, nonobese horses. Though other studies have indicated that exercise improved insulin sensitivity in horses, the optimum level of exercise required to produce this benefit has not been established.