High-intensity training in normobaric hypoxia enhances exercise performance and aerobic capacity in Thoroughbred horses: A randomized crossover study

Physiol Rep. 2020 May;8(10):e14442. doi: 10.14814/phy2.14442.


We examined the effects of high-intensity training in normobaric hypoxia on aerobic capacity and exercise performance in horses and the individual response to normoxic and hypoxic training. Eight untrained horses were studied in a randomized, crossover design after training in hypoxia (HYP; 15.0% inspired O2 ) or normoxia (NOR; 20.9% inspired O2 ) 3 days/week for 4 weeks separated by a 4-month washout period. Before and after each training period, incremental treadmill exercise tests were performed in normoxia. Each training session consisted of 1 min cantering at 7 m/s and 2 min galloping at the speed determined to elicit maximal oxygen consumption ( V˙ O2 max) in normoxia. Hypoxia increased significantly more than NOR in run time to exhaustion (HYP, +28.4%; NOR, +10.4%, p = .001), V˙ O2 max (HYP, +12.1%; NOR, +2.6%, p = .042), cardiac output ( Q˙ ; HYP, +11.3%; NOR, -1.7%, p = .019), and stroke volume (SV) at exhaustion (HYP, +5.4%; NOR, -5.5%, p = .035) after training. No significant correlations were observed between NOR and HYP for individual changes after training in run time (p = .21), V˙ O2 max (p = .99), Q˙ (p = .19), and SV (p = .46) at exhaustion. Arterial O2 saturation during exercise in HYP was positively correlated with the changes in run time (r = .85, p = .0073), Q˙ (r = .72, p = .043) and SV (r = .77, p = .026) of HYP after training, whereas there were no correlations between these parameters in NOR. These results suggest that high-intensity training in normobaric hypoxia improved exercise performance and aerobic capacity of horses to a greater extent than the same training protocol in normoxia, and the severity of hypoxemia during hypoxic exercise might be too stressful for poor responders to hypoxic training.

Keywords: aerobic capacity; horse; hypoxic training; performance.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial, Veterinary
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Exercise Tolerance / physiology*
  • Female
  • Horses
  • Hypoxia / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal*
  • Running / physiology