Premature Depolarizations in Horses Competing in USEA and FEI-Sanctioned Three-Day Events
This study examined risk factors for premature depolarizations (PDs) in horses during the XC phase of USEA and FEI-sanctioned events.
An eventing horse jumping a cross-country (XC) fence, which might be at a higher risk of premature depolarization (PD).
Premature depolarizations were seen in a high percentage of horses during cross-country competition. | Getty Images

Injuries and sudden death during the cross-country (XC) phase of eventing have raised interest in the frequency and types of cardiac arrhythmias occurring in these equine athletes. The aim of this prospective, cross-sectional study was to characterize the frequency and types of rhythm disturbances and examine possible risk factors for premature depolarizations (PDs) occurring during the XC phase of United States Eventing Association (USEA) and Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI)-sanctioned events.

Continuous electrocardiographic (ECG) recordings were obtained from 75 horses prior to, during and immediately following the XC competition. The frequency of PDs was calculated for all horses, as well as by division. PDs were categorized by complexity (singles, couplets, triplets, complex) and variably grouped for statistical analysis. Multiple logistic regression was used to identify risk factors for the presence of specific cardiac arrhythmia groupings during XC.

Premature depolarizations were identified in 42/75 horses (56% [45, 67]) during XC. Horses competing in the upper divisions of eventing had higher odds for having any PD during XC compared to the lower divisions (OR = 17.5 [4.3, 72.01], p = 0.006). The amount of time the heart rate (HR) was greater than 199 beats per minute (BPM) was associated with more complex arrhythmias (triplets, salvos and tachyarrhythmias) (OR = 1.01 [1.0, 1.02], p = 0.005). An arrhythmia at rest (physiological or PD) was associated with arrhythmia in the early recovery period (OR = 3.5 [1.1, 10.8], p = 0.03).

Bottom Line 

Premature depolarizations were seen in a high percentage of horses during the XC competition. Upper divisions and time the HR was greater than 199 BPM were related to PD presence and complexity.


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