Rikke Buhl

Professor, PhD, DVM


Research Profile:

Equine cardiology has been my main research area since graduation from Vet school in 1999. In 2004, I defended my PhD thesis within cardiology with focus on “Equine Athlete’s Heart”. I have continued the research within this area first as assistant professor and later as associate professor within Large Animal Internal Medicine. Lately I have been appointed as professor within equine cardiology.

My research area was for the first years concentrated within the area of “Athlete’s Heart”. I was the first to describe the development of heart size and prevalence of valvular regurgitation in trotters as a result of long standing physical exercise. The main results of these studies are that training induces significant cardiac hypertrophy with large individual variation among horses. Also a dramatic increase in the prevalence of valvular regurgitation was observed, and for some horses this lead to reduced racing performance. Also, the research has shown that heart size are positive correlated with racing performance of the horse.

As one of the few researchers in the world I have focused on the development of exercise-induced cardiac arrhythmias in trotters and riding horses and the research has shown that equine athletes develops arrhythmias in accordance with human athletes. Although the above described response to exercise is considered generally to be a beneficial and physiological adaptation to increased demands, human studies have shown that exercise-induced cardiac hypertrophy can become dangerous with increasing risk of the athlete collapsing or even dying during exercise. There is a high attention on these tragically events among intensively trained athletes. Whether these events are caused by repolarisation defects in the heart in horses is unknown. In addition racehorses are in risk of develop atrial fibrillation which is also seen in humans. At the moment four PhD projects are working on the above described topics.

For all projects, the synergy between equine and human research is strong and visible and we hope our research will gain new insight into diseases that are of importance for both horse and man.

Clinical examination is fundamental for most research projects I have been involved with. And I strongly believe that improving this area is essential for all clinical research. Sophisticated diagnostic methods such as cardiac ultrasound, ECG measurements and exercise testing of horses where cardiac function is examined during physical exercise where telemetric ECG and stress echocardiography are an integrated part of diagnosis of performance related diseases is used routinely used during my clinical work both for teaching and research purposes.