Muscle biopsy samples were collected from the middle gluteal muscle of seven horses undergoing a nine-month endurance training programme. Samples were collected before the programme began and again after three, six and nine months of training. A fifth sample was collected three months after training ceased. Serial muscle sections were reacted histochemically for myosin adenosine triphosphatase after either acid (pH 4.3 and 4.6) or alkaline (pH 10.3) pre-incubation, and muscle fibres identified as type I, IIA, IIB or IIC. The oxidative capacity of individual fibres was assessed, using the reduced nicotinamide dinucleotide tetrazolium reductase stain, and the number of intermyofibrillar capillaries adjacent to each fibre was counted after staining, using the alpha-amylase periodic acid Schiff technique. Biochemical analyses involved the fluorometric measurement of the enzymes citrate synthase, 3-hydroxy acyl CoA dehydrogenase and lactate dehydrogenase as markers of end terminal oxidative, beta oxidative and glycolytic potential, respectively. There was an increase in the percentage of type IIB fibres having high nicotinamide dinucleotide tetrazolium reductase staining after three months training. This increase persisted throughout the period of training and during the period without training. There was an increase in the number of capillaries adjacent to type IIB fibres after six and nine months training. These had returned to near pre-training numbers after three months without training. There were increases in the activities of citrate synthase and 3-hydroxy acyl CoA dehydrogenase after three months training. The activities of both enzymes continued to rise throughout training and the highest activities were attained after nine months.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)
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