Inspiratory Muscle Training and Testing: Rationale, Development and Feasibility

K. J. Allen, L. E. Fitzharris, A. K. McConnell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
161 Downloads (Pure)


Inspiratory muscle training (IMT) applies a training stimulus directly to the inspiratory muscles and is distinct from whole-body training. The potential benefits of IMT have yet to be explored in horses.

The objectives were: 1) to develop an equine-specific method of testing and training inspiratory muscles; 2) to assess tolerance and feasibility in a pilot study in a commercial Thoroughbred training establishment.

Study Design
Field study

A mask was used to interface commercial human IMT equipment. Ten horses undertook IMT once daily while stood in the stable approximately 5 days/week over a 9-week period. Inspiratory muscle strength testing (IMST) employed a continuous incremental inspiratory loading protocol alternating two
loaded and two minimally loaded breaths until failure to tolerate the load occurred or the maximum 60 breaths were completed. The IMST was undertaken twice; firstly in 10 horses with minimal acclimatisation and secondly in 8 horses experienced with the IMT programme.

The ten horses undertook IMT for a median of 42 days, reaching a median peak training load of 32.5cmH2O. One horse did not tolerate the mask with repeated snorting and was replaced. All horses completed the IMST. The median peak value in IMST 1 was 27cmH2O and in IMST 2 was 41cmH2O. Two of 10 horses reached the maximum possible value in IMST 1; therefore, the test was adapted to permit a higher maximum value, despite this 3/8 horses reached the maximum possible value in IMST

Main limitations
A small number of horses were assessed. The IMST was refined during the study and requires additional refinement.

Inspiratory muscle testing and training were feasible and tolerated in horses. Further research is required to understand whether the IMST values obtained correlate with other physiological/performance outcomes. The potential benefits and/or adverse effects of IMT warrant further investigation.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEquine Veterinary Journal
Early online date4 Dec 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Dec 2019


  • horse
  • respiratory
  • inspiratory
  • training
  • muscle


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