Kentucky Equine Research
The formation of ordinary rust is not a chemical enigma and is perhaps the most familiar example of oxidation. A mixture of moisture and oxygen chemically attacks metal and in time corrosion creates a reddish-brown, brittle coating that weakens and ultimately destroys the metal. Just as destructive, though invisible to the eye, is the oxidation that occurs at the cellular level in horses and other mammals. The end result of unchecked oxidation in the bodies of equine athletes may be muscular fatigue severe enough to compromise performance.
Oxidation is a normal metabolic process that allows horses to transform the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins they devour in meals to energy-- energy to grow, perform, and reproduce. One unfortunate, although completely unavoidable, spin-off of oxidation is the creation of free radicals, compounds that have the potential to irreparably damage cells. Free radicals are particularly harmful to cell membranes, structures responsible for keeping destructive entities away from delicate inner organelles.
Under normal circumstances, substances called antioxidants thwart much of the wreckage caused by free radicals. However, oxidation speeds up during athletic effort due to increased oxygen consumption and accelerated aerobic metabolism.
In instances of strenuous exercise, natural stores of antioxidants have difficulty providing sufficient protection against the cascade of free radicals generated from aerobic metabolism...
Read more here: