Effect of Ergovaline Ingestion on Recovery of Horses Subjected to an Anaerobic Standard Exercise Test


The objective of this study was to determine whether consumption of tall fescue seed which contained high levels of ergovaline would affect post-exercise recovery of horses subjected to an anaerobic exercise test. Ten Quarter horses were separated into two groups and fed alfalfa hay, commercial sweet feed, and either endophyte-infected (E+) or endophyte-free (E-) ground tall fescue seed. Diets contained 11.8% seed, which resulted in 459 ppb of ergovaline for the E+ diet. During the first 28 days, horses in group A received E+ and group B received E-. Diets were reversed during the next 28 days (crossover design). Horses were ridden for 5 days per week. On day 14, 28 (period 1), 42, and 56 (period 2), they were subjected to a standardized exercise test (SET) that consisted of 41 turns in 4 minutes and was designed to raise the horse's heart rate (HR) beyond the anaerobic threshold (150 bpm). There was a horse effect (P < .05) on post-SET respiration rate, HR, and post-exercise whole blood lactate level, but not rectal temperature (RT). For these variables or period effects, there was no horse × treatment, period × treatment, or period × horse interactions (P < .05). Treatment had no effect on whole blood lactate level, RT, or HR at any time measured. Respiration rate did not vary by treatment at rest or 1 minute after SET but was higher for the E+ treatment at 5 and 10 minutes after SET (P < .005). Consumption of diets that averaged 450 ppb of ergovaline caused the horses expend more respiratory effort in an attempt to recover to resting RT.


Animal Science

Document Type





horse, fescue, exercise, anaerobic, ergovaline

Publication Date


Journal Title

Journal of equine veterinary science