ATP: ‘Energy currency’ in metabolism
performance horse eventing


To gain a deeper understanding of the impact adenosine triphosphate (ATP) has on equine performance, it’s important to take a step back and look at how a horse’s cells work.ATP plays an essential role in the metabolic process. On a microscopic level, ATP is found in mitochondria, which act as the power plants of the cell. Mitochondria contain two major membranes: the outer membrane and the inner membrane. The inner membrane is responsible for ATP synthesis.

This membrane surrounds the mitochondrial matrix, where the citric acid cycle produces the electrons that travel from one protein complex to the next. At the end of this chain, there are two main products: water (H2O) and ATP. ATP serves as the power (or energy) to carry molecules, and in essence is “energy currency” for cell processes.

When ATP splits, it produces adenosine diphosphate (ADP), inorganic phosphate (Pi) and energy for cellular functions. During muscle contractions, ATP works in cell membrane pumps and actin-myosin cross-bridge cycling.

Many of the aerobic and anaerobic processes in a horse’s body – including the Krebs cycle, glycogenolysis, oxidation of free fatty acids, etc. – serve to supply the muscle cells with ATP. Muscle fibers’ resistance to fatigue is related to their high density of ATP-rich mitochondria, which deliver a higher aerobic capacity, according to the University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

It is widely known that sugars provide the horse’s body with energy for a range of activities. Muscle cells obtain glucose from the blood and from glycogen stored within the muscle cell. In anaerobic pathways such as cell cytoplasm, there are two molecules of ATP for each molecule of glucose metabolized. In this way, the body needs ATP to gain energy from sugars.

The efficiency of mitochondrial pathways hinges on plentiful ATP supplies.

It may sound confusing, but ATP is a critical component in energizing horses. When it comes to horse training, performance and recovery, the amount of this vital component can determine how quickly and efficiently the horse’s body can perform.

As horse owners might imagine, when ATP levels are low, the equines cannot – on a cellular level – recover as quickly. But with ATP supplements, horses’ recuperation process may noticeably improve, as a number of studies have shown.

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