Race Fit: Horse Conditioning

As I mentioned in the last post about human conditioning, I was lucky to have spent 6 months in Sunny California helping condition sport horses, including endurance horses.

As an Eventer, we spend a lot of time talking about conditioning our horses. Most of us throw around the term “interval training” on a regular basis but how many of us know why exactly we use interval training?? I mean, most of us have just accepted the golden words of Senor Jimmy Wofford and just DO interval training. I support this whole heartedly, but would like to offer a few details about conditioning that I learned from endurance horses.

What is your horse’s resting heart rate??

Do you know your horse’s resting heart rate? Do you know how to check your horse’s heart rate? If not, this is the first step you must do. Look it up. I’m sure there is a youtube video on it. For example, click here.

Now that you know how to check it, here are some short notes to keep in mind, that will help you monitor your horse’s fitness level. Consider this an internet cliff note version.

Ready, set, go!

A horse’s normal heart rate is: 24 – 48 BPM (Beats per minute)

The average range is : 32 – 42 BPM

Aerobic range: LESS THAN 150 BPM

Anaerobic range: STARTS at 150 -160 BPM

*Re-read this. Learn it. Understand it.

  • A horse’s resting heart rate does not change with fitness

  • Only their working heart rate/ recovery rate does

  • Some horses work at a higher rate than others

  • Rate of recovery is the actual indication of fitness

  • ideally should recover to 60-64 BPM within 5 – 10 mins following an aerobic work out.

INTERVAL TRAINING: STIMULATES THE BODY TO HIGHER LEVELS OF LACTIC ACID.

?? huh ??

Work at a target heart rate for 180-200 BPM for a couple minutes.

Then slow to allow the BPM to return to 100 – 120 BPM before starting another interval (Yes Jimmy, we hear you).

By conditioning at a higher working heart rate, lactic acid is more rapidly cleared from the tissues.

You are achieving your goal when your horse’s heart rate immediately drops to 100 BPM upon slowing speed or decreasing exercise intensity.

Whoa, technical reading.

I know. It’s true. But learn how to check your horse’s heart rate. It will keep you on track with your horse’s progress and comfort level. Bear in mind, the minute you stop exercising, his/her heart rate will drop.

I hope you enjoyed the quick n dirty post. Go grab a beer and re-read this.

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