Effect of Ergopeptines Associated with Tall Fescue Ingestion on Recovery of Horses Subjected to Standardized Exercise Tests


Ten horses were paired by body weight, age, and skill level, and one of each pair was assigned to one of two groups. Horses were fed alfalfa hay and a mixture of commercial sweet feed and pellets. Horses in group A were fed fescue seed that contained both ergovaline and ergotamine (E+), whereas those in the other group were fed seed that was free from ergot alkaloids (E-). After the first 35 days, horses were switched to the opposite seed treatment. Seed was fed at 8.2% of the diet, resulting in 406 ppb of ergotamine plus ergovaline in the E+ diet. During weeks 3, 5, 7, and 10, horses were subjected to two separate standardized exercise tests (SETs). The aerobic test consisted of walking, trotting, and loping and was designed to maintain horse's heart rate (HR) to less than 150 beats per minute (bpm). The anaerobic test consisted of 40 turns in less than 4 minutes in response to the movements of a mechanical cow and was designed to increase the horse's HR to more than 150 bpm. There were no treatment effects on water consumption or sweat production. There were also no treatment effects on rectal temperature at rest or during recovery from the anaerobic SET. However, rectal temperatures were higher (P < .05) 1 and 30 minutes after the aerobic SET for horses consuming E+ seed. When horses were on the E+ treatment, HRs were lower (P < .05), both at rest and during the SET. HRs were also lower (P < .05) for the E+ treatment at 1 minute after the aerobic test and 5 and 10 minutes after the anaerobic test. Respiration rates were higher (P < .05) 30 minutes after the aerobic SET and 30 and 60 minutes after the anaerobic SET for the E+ treatment. Horses may have increased respiration rates to compensate for a reduction in the efficiency of evaporative cooling, which resulted from vasoconstriction of peripheral blood vessels.


Animal Science

Document Type





horse, fescue, exercise, ergotamine, ergovaline

Publication Date


Journal Title

Journal of Equine Veterinary Science