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Objectives: In this study, the effect of TTs was evaluated in 30 Thoroughbred and Standardbred racehorses in a prospective, cross-over blinded clinical study.
Methods: 22 Thoroughbred and 8 Standardbred racehorses were examined using overground endoscopy under full-intensity exercise on their training race tracks with and without fixation of the tongue by use of TTs. Equivalent exercise intensity was ensured by measuring heart rate (bpm), speed (GPS) and venous lactate. Pharyngeal diameter was expressed as pharyngeal-epiglottis-ratios as described in former studies and laryngeal abduction accordingly as laryngeal-median-ratios.
Results: The pharyngeal diameter increased significantly in all horses between rest and full-intensity exercise (P<0.01). Multivariable-analysis revealed that this effect was significantly decreased by the application of tongue ties (P<0.01). No significant effects of TTs on laryngeal parameters were found. DDSP was found in 4/30 examinations with TT (13.3%) and in 1/30 examinations without TT (3.3%).
Discussion: There is contradictory published evidence on the potential efficacy of ‘tongue ties’ (TTs) on upper airway function and for treatment of intermittent dorsal displacement of the soft palate (DDSP) in racehorses. A positive effect on pharyngeal or laryngeal diameters was not found in this study. Further studies should focus on animal welfare.
Conclusions: The results of this study do not support the use of TTs to support upper airway function and to prevent the occurrence of DDSP.
Significance: The results of our study might provide objective evidence for future decisions of equine sports organizations concerning the
regulations on TTs.