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Circadian Lighting Naturally Enhances A Horse’s Performance

The Equilume Stable Lighting System is a breakthrough in lighting technology that provides biologically effective light that mimics daylight for the stabled horse. But what is ‘biologically effective’ lighting and how can it help improve a horse’s performance? The horse’s ancestors evolved outside and were exposed to regular changes in light and dark and high intensities of daytime light from the sun. This ensured that their body clock, or circadian system, functioned optimally. In particular, the high proportion of blue wavelength light in natural daylight is important for receptors in the eye that are key for regulating our body clock. This system consists of a master controller in the brain that perceives the time of day information via blue light signals sent from the retina. The brain clock then transmits messages throughout the horse’s body to synchronize the rhythmical functioning of each organ, so that all body systems function optimally in harmony with the environment. Poor lighting and exposure to the wrong kind of lighting at different times of day play havoc with an animal’s circadian system causing it to flatline. The consequences of circadian disruption are commonly experienced by humans due to shift work, jet lag or too much screen time at night, and include sleep disturbances, low alertness, impaired performance, immune suppression, illness and disease.

Within the equine industry, there have been amazing advances in nutritional science, veterinary science and training technologies, but until now we have remained very much in the dark concerning one crucial environmental factor that impacts health and performance – lighting. When feeding, training and veterinary care are optimized, the provision of the correct biologically effective lighting program can bring all the ingredients together and fine tune the engine for our equine athletes.

Modern management of racehorses requires that they spend a large proportion of the 24-h day indoors, unexposed to optimum daylight and frequently disrupted by light at night. Horses kept in this manner often have impaired immune function, performance capacity, appetite and rest. Similar to humans, the source of this physiological dysfunction lies with the horse’s circadian system failing to operate optimally.

Equilume have developed a customized system that provides lighting designed to support and maintain the horse’s circadian system and immediately acts to influence health, performance and welfare by naturally strengthening the horse’s internal rhythms.

A vital component of the Equilume system is the blue-enriched daytime light that mimics the spectrum of natural daylight and boosts metabolism, alertness, appetite and reduces the growth of bacteria and fungi in stables. A second feature is that lights dim to red at night, avoiding the need to turn on lights. White light at night is a major cause of circadian disruption. Red light better facilitates rest and also has a calming effect that helps with behavioral problems. Thirdly, gradual light transitions that mimic dawn and dusk help to reduce stress. Finally, a special programme automatically regulates seasonal changes in day-length such that performance capacity is optimized all year round. Horses experience spring sooner and autumn later, extending the season of peak performance and ensuring they put on muscle and are in the best possible skin throughout the year. And because circadian lighting influences humans just as powerfully as it does our horses, staff working in proximity to these lights will also have an added pep in their step.

From a management perspective, Equilume’s energy-saving LED technology means no more worrying about leaving the lights on, and overhead costs are reduced. The system’s ability to naturally enhance the horses’ health and strengthen the immune system will also cut down on vet bills during the season

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