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This article in JAS

  1. Vol. 90 No. 11, p. 3770-3777
    Received: Sept 15, 2011
    Accepted: Apr 13, 2012
    Published: January 20, 2015

    2 Corresponding author(s):


Impact of moderate exercise on ovarian blood flow and early embryonic outcomes in mares1

  1. R. L. Smith*,
  2. K. L. Vernon*,
  3. D. E. Kelley,
  4. J. R. Gibbons* and
  5. C. J. Mortensen 2
  1. *Department of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, Clemson University, Clemson, SC 29634
    †Department of Animal Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville 32611


The advent of embryo transfer has allowed horses to continue to train and compete during the breeding season. However, the associated stress of exercise may be detrimental to reproduction. The objectives of this study were to evaluate differing exercise protocols on reproductive blood flow and embryonic outcomes in mares. Light-horse mares were randomized into control (n = 4), partial-exercised (n = 6), and full-exercised (n = 6) groups. Partial-exercised mares were moderately exercised 30 min daily during the periovulatory period and rested after ovulation for 7 d. Full-exercised mares were exercised for 30 min daily throughout the reproductive cycle. Mares were artificially inseminated during estrus and subjected to uterine flush for embryo recovery on d 7 post ovulation. Blood flow through both ovarian arteries and vascular perfusion of the wall of the preovulatory follicle were examined by color Doppler ultrasonography. Results indicated exercise induced greater serum cortisol concentrations (P < 0.05). Embryo recovery rates were reduced in exercised (20/46, 43%) compared with control (14/21, 67%) mares (P < 0.10). When examined separately, embryo recovery rates for partial-exercised (11/25, 44%) and full-exercised (9/21, 43%) mares were not significantly different. Additionally, fewer quality Grade 1 embryos were recovered from partial-exercised mares compared with both control and full-exercised mares (P < 0.05). Blood flow through both ovarian arteries was greater in both exercised groups in the days leading up to ovulation (P < 0.05). However, vascular perfusion of the wall of the preovulatory follicle on the day before ovulation was less in both partial-exercised (45.9 ± 3.0%) and full-exercised (44.8 ± 3.4%) mares vs. control (54.9 ± 3.6%; P < 0.05). In exercised mares, vascular perfusion of the follicle wall was greater when an embryo was recovered (P < 0.01). No differences were found in follicle ovulatory diameter among exercised and non-exercised mares. When groups were combined, follicle diameter was greater when an embryo was recovered (44.9 ± 1.0 mm) compared with an unsuccessful embryo recovery attempt (42.8 ± 0.7 mm; P < 0.05). In conclusion, these data demonstrated that exercise increased ovarian arterial blood flow leading up to ovulation and decreased vascular perfusion of the wall of the preovulatory follicle. Mares given rest the day after ovulation up until an embryo collection attempt did not improve embryo recovery rates.

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