Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Cold Season

AKA Is it so cold you cannot breathe?

A great topic of discussion is whether or not to exercise our horses in such brutal cold.  OK, it actually has warmed up in the last twelve hours or so, but before that it was subzero.  

But the point of the discussion is whether or not it is dangerous to ride a horse in such temperatures.  I have heard both sides of the discussion.

I personally don't try and do major work in the cold since I worry about damage to the lungs, but had never searched for evidence on this.

So tonight, I decided to take a peek to see what I could find.

Influx of neutrophils and persistence of cytokine expression in airways of horses after performing exercise while breathing cold air

Michael S. Davis, DVM, PhD; Caroline C. Williams, BS; James H. Meinkoth, DVM, PhD; Jerry R. Malayer, PhD; Christopher M. Royer, BS; Katherine K. Williamson, DVM; Erica C. McKenzie, BVSc, PhD

The basis of this study was involving horses exercising and then breathing warm or cold air.  Neutrophils increased after breathing the cold air.  Neutrophils are the most prevalent white blood cell in the body and are the first responders to infection and so forth.  They also found elevated cytokine levels, which are used in signaling pathways.  These particular cytokines can help suppress additional immune response.

Their conclusion was that exposure to this cold air created an immune response for a couple of days.  The immune suppression could potentially lead to an increase chance of not fighting off a respiratory infection while in the subclinical phase.

Additional research has been done with sled dogs as well indicating very similar responses.

Perhaps another insight into why people are predisposed to respiratory infections in these colder months.  I know I am fighting off a bug right now! 


  1. Very timely topic -- here in the Midwest we're experiencing much colder temps than usual and everyone is talking about whether or not to ride!

  2. I'm glad I don't really suffer from the "too cold to ride" spectrum, though we do get the "too hot to ride"


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