Abstract The effects of single bouts of moderate (30 to 40 per cent VO 2max) and high (115 per cent VO 2max) intensity exercise on equine peripheral blood leucocyte function were evaluated by determining neutrophil phagocytosis and oxidative burst activity before and after treadmill exercise and training. Prior to all exercise tests, the possible effect of diurnal variation was evaluated in samples obtained from four resting horses. Subsequently eight horses underwent moderate and high intensity exercise protocols and then commenced a 17-week training period. High intensity exercise tests were repeated in week 10, after 7 weeks of endurance training, and in week 17, after a further 6 weeks of high intensity training. Time of sampling had a significant effect on neutrophil function for resting, untrained horses. Prior to training, moderate intensity exercise was associated with improved neutrophil phagocytosis and oxidative burst activity. High intensity exercise was associated with transient impairment of these responses. A similar reduction was not demonstrable following high intensity exercise in weeks 10 or 17 of training. Neutrophil function in week 17 was suppressed at all sampling times relative to results obtained in week 10, suggesting that high intensity training may have been associated with a general reduction in neutrophil function.