Electrocardiographic characteristics of trained and untrained standardbred racehorses

Sarah D. Nissen, Rikke Weis, Elisabeth K. Krag-Andersen, Eva M. Hesselkilde, Jonas L. Isaksen, Helena Carstensen, Jørgen K. Kanters, Dominik Linz, Prashanthan Sanders, Charlotte Hopster-Iversen, Thomas Jespersen, Steen Pehrson, Rikke Buhl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Long-term exercise induces cardiac remodeling that potentially influences the electrical properties of the heart. Hypothesis/objectives: We assessed whether training alters cardiac conduction in Standardbred racehorses. Animals: Two hundred one trained and 52 untrained Standardbred horses. Methods: Cross-sectional study. Resting ECG recordings were analyzed to assess heart rate (HR) along with standard ECG parameters and for identification of atrial and ventricular arrhythmias. An electrophysiological study was performed in 13 horses assessing the effect of training on sinoatrial (SA) and atrioventricular (AV) nodal function by sinus node recovery time (SNRT) and His signal recordings. Age and sex adjustments were implemented in multiple and logistic regression models for comparison. Results: Resting HR in beats per minute (bpm) was lower in trained vs untrained horses (mean, 30.8 ± 2.6 bpm vs 32.9 ± 4.2 bpm; P =.001). Trained horses more often displayed second-degree atrioventricular block (2AVB; odds ratio, 2.59; P =.04). No difference in SNRT was found between groups (n = 13). Mean P-A, A-H, and H-V intervals were 71 ± 20, 209 ± 41, and 134 ± 41 ms, respectively (n = 7). We did not detect a training effect on AV-nodal conduction intervals. His signals were present in 1 horse during 2AVB with varying H-V interval preceding a blocked beat. Conclusions and Clinical Importance: We identified decreased HR and increased frequency of 2AVB in trained horses. In 5 of 7 horses, His signal recordings had variable H-V intervals within each individual horse, providing novel insight into AV conduction in horses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1119-1130
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 1 May 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • His signal
  • athlete's heart
  • atrioventricular conduction
  • cardiac arrhythmia
  • equine
  • sinus node recovery time
  • specialized conduction system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)

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