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Incidence of exertional rhabdomyolysis in polo horses in the USA and the United Kingdom in the 1999/2000 season
  1. C. M. McGowan, BVSc, PhD, MACVSc, MRCVS1,
  2. R. E. Posner, BS, BVetMed, MRCVS1 and
  3. R. M. Christley, BVSc, PhD, MACVSc, MRCVS2
  1. 1 Department of Farm Animal and Equine Medicine and Surgery, The Royal Veterinary College, Hawkshead Lane, North Mymms, Hatfield AL9 7TA
  2. 2 Department of Veterinary Clinical Studies, University of Glasgow Veterinary School, Bearsden, Glasgow G61 1QH


A questionnaire was used to determine the incidence of exertional rhabdomyolysis and the factors that might have contributed to its occurrence among 423 polo horses in 11 yards. The yards were selected at random, six of them with 111 horses, in north-eastern usA, and five with 312 horses in south-east England. During the 1999/2000 season the incidence of the condition was 7.3 per cent (9 per cent in the USA and 6.7 per cent in England). The incidence in mares was similar in the two countries, 8.4 per cent in the USA and 8.0 per cent in England, but the incidence in geldings in the USA (10 per cent) was much higher than in England (1.5 per cent). A more excitable than average temperament was reported in 71 per cent of the horses with the condition, and most cases occurred after a game (chukka) in which the horse was perceived to be not fit enough for the level of play demanded. Sixty-four per cent of the cases occurred early in the season and on average each episode resulted in the loss of 7.6 training days.

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