The effect of relaxing massage on heart rate and heart rate variability in purebred Arabian racehorses

Anim Sci J. 2017 Apr;88(4):669-677. doi: 10.1111/asj.12671. Epub 2016 Sep 4.


The objective of this study was to assess the effect of relaxing massage on the heart rate (HR) and heart rate variability (HRV) in young racehorses during their first racing season. In the study, 72 Purebred Arabian racehorses were included. The study was implemented during the full race season. The horses from control and experimental groups were included in regular race training 6 days a week. The horses from the experimental group were additionally subject to the relaxing massage 3 days a week during the whole study. HR and HRV were assumed as indicators of the emotional state of the horses. The measurements were taken six times, every 4-5 weeks. The HRV parameters were measured at rest, during grooming and saddling the horse and during warm-up walking under a rider. The changes of the parameters throughout the season suggest that the relaxing massage may be effectively used to make the racehorses more relaxed and calm. Moreover, the horses from the experimental group had better race performance records.

Keywords: heart rate; heart rate variability; massage; racehorse.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Competitive Behavior
  • Emotions
  • Heart Rate*
  • Horses / physiology*
  • Horses / psychology*
  • Massage / veterinary*
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal / physiology*
  • Running
  • Sports