Scientists are trying to reduce the load on sport horses, they give them milk thistle

10. 6. 2021
Long-term physical activity in racehorses leads to damage to their liver cells, myocardium, and muscles, it also disrupts their metabolism. Researchers are trying to counter this with feed supplements containing milk thistle pomace. They already have confirmed that seed extracts have proven healing and regenerative effects.

“Substances contained in milk thistle seeds have a potential effect on mitigating or preventing the negative effects of physical activity on the body, they can also positively affect energy metabolism during the physical activity of sport horses,” said Hana Dočkalová from the Faculty of AgriSciences at Mendel University in Brno.

Scientists have not yet studied the relationship between milk thistle and physical activity in sport horses in detail. If they show a positive effect of one of the most frequently grown herbs on the equine organism, this opens the way to the application of a similar procedure to other animals or humans. The advantage of this method of treatment is the low incidence of health problems and reduced performance.

Extracts of milk thistle seeds are used in the treatment of toxic-metabolic liver damage and chronic diseases of this organ. The most important ingredients are comprehensively known as silymarin. Its correct dosing for horses is now being tested by scientists. “As part of an objective assessment of the results, this year we are using a fitness watch system with GPS and chest straps for the first time, which allows us to monitor the heart rate of horses,” said Dočkalová.

Milk thistle is currently used in pharmacology, as a dietary supplement in animals, especially to increase daily weight gain or in veterinary medicine. This herb is the second most frequently grown in the Czech Republic after cumin on an area of about 2,000 hectares. Thanks to scientists from MENDELU, it will now probably be used for other uses.

The three-year scientific project is funded by the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic and will end in 2022. The outputs of the project will be based on experimental administration of milk thistle expellers in feed mixture in correlation with blood biochemical parameters depending on the physical load of horses.

Contact for more information: Ing. Hana Dočkalová, Department of Animal Nutrition and Forage Production FA, phone.: +420 773 996 710, e-mail:

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