Exercise Induced Pulmonary Hemorrahage. Aka Bleeders.

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Bleeders…What does that mean?

Bleeders are horses, during high cardiovascular workouts, such as: horse racing, barrel racing, and pole bending, that can have blood appearing out one or both nostrils.  Or even just that the horse is coughing and very uncomfortable post performance. More professionally, a bleeder is known as Exercise Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage. Horses bleeding down deep in their lungs at the point of oxygen exchange between the capillaries and the alveoli, during high cardiovascular exercise. Up to 98% of all horses when scoped right after high intensity exercise, have blood in their trachea.



How do we know all of this? Extensive data has been taken on race horses by having these horses run on treadmills. While exercising them to high levels, veterinarians pass a 1 meter endoscope down the “windpipe” or trachea to the branching of the two main bronchi (or the bifraction of the trachea). Close to 100% of the horses bleed at this high level of exercise, telling us that this occurs often in all horses that get to a high level of cardiovascular performance. Our job as trainers and owners is to watch post performance symptoms and behaviors. These being: bleeding from either or both nostrils, (although blood is not always apparent), coughing, discomfort, head shaking, attitude changes (as in resistance to going in to the arena for competition), and or failure to complete a run. These are just a few clinical signs to watch for.

What do we do if any of these symptoms appear? Talk to your trusted Veterinarian and get a plan for your next step. Many choices are out there now, some are anecdotal while others are supported by extensive research. Bleeders are a serious detriment to performance, although not usually life threatening, it is a situation that bears attention and action on the owner’s part.

Prevention? Conditioning! As in most conditioning programs, it is vital to mix up long slow distance with shorter sprinting workouts plus the more disciplined exercise workouts. For bleeders, including short sprint workouts, building up to one or two a week is vital. Be sure to always pay close attention to what the individual horse can handle sprint-wise, and adjust the amount of sprints to your individual horse’s mental and physical handlabilty.

Bleeders, Exercise Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage, is a treatable and yet a serious condition that bears attention. By noticing it and working closely with your knowledgeable veterinarian, you ensure you and your horse a successful career.

Posted in: Featured, Horse Care, Horse Training

About Lynn Kohr

I am a barrel and pole horse trainer, giving springtime barrel racing and pole bending clinics and workshops, competing in barrel racing and pole bending futurities while marketing our horses for sale. I am a Mom of 3: Sage, Cedar, and Stratton. And wife of...

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