top of page

Eventing 101 Workshop: Conditioning

How amazing is it to have an entire group or riders that actually are willing and interested in sitting down for a group discussion of all things horses??!! I was so proud of our group this morning, I can’t even tell you. Pen and paper poised, I tortured these riders with big words and a (brief) lecture on equine physiology followed by (torturing) interval work. I look forward to offering more workshops on concentrated subjects in the future.

For this workshop we focused on conditioning and understanding why it is important for our horses. Though much more eloquently discussed during the discussion, here are the cliff notes from the lecture.

Focal point: Heart, Blood, Lungs

Exciting, isn’t it??


  • central pump

  • in thoracic cavity

  • in front of horses “elbow”


  • 10% of Horses weight

  • Volume of 40 liters at rest

  • Cells:

  • Red Blood Cells (RBC)

  • White Blood Cells ( WBC)

  • Platelets

  • Red Blood Cells

  • Manufactured in bone marrow

  • Contain Hemoglobin

  • Carry Oxygen around body

  • White Blood Cells

  • Manufactured in Spleen

  • Primary function is to fight infection

  • Platelets

  • Manufactured in Bone Marrow

  • Primary Function is blood clotting

Cardiovascular Functions

  1. Stroke Volume

  2. Heart Rate

  3. Cardiac Output

Stroke Volume: amount of blood pumped at each systole

@ rest = 900 ml

@ max = 1200 ml

* 33% increase

Heart Rate: Number of beats per minute

Average resting Heart Rate (HR) Range= 25-50 bpm

Average HR = 35 bpm

Low resting heart rate is favorable. Large heart with high stroke volume.

Why is it useful to know your horse’s resting HR? Changes can indicate: pain, sickness, excitement, fear

Take note is is challenging to take your horse’s resting heart rate, even walking out of the stall can increase it 10%.

Cardiac Output: amount of blood pumped by heart each minute

Cardiac Output = Heart Rate x Stroke Volume

*Cardiovascular response to exercise

The fitter the horse, the faster the HR decline post exercise.

At rest 15 % of circulating blood is delivered to muscles. This increases to about 85 % during strenuous exercise.

What are the effects of conditioning?

  • decrease HR and Cardiac Output

  • Increase ability to consume oxygen because of increases efficiency of cardiovascular system

  • increase ability of muscles to extract oxygen

  • increased capillarization: allows great contact between RBCs and muscle fibers

Respiratory System Oxygen is consumed during aerobic metabolism

During exercise a horse’s Oxygen consumption increases 35% over it’s resting values

Fun Note: Horses are obliged to breathe through their nose

Respiratory Rate: Number of breathes per minute

  • Range: 12-20 Breathes per minute

  • During exercise as high as 180 breathes/min

  • In canter/gallop respiratory rate is usually coupled with a 1:1 ratio

Aerobic v. Anaerobic Metabolism

Reference to an old blog post HERE for a brief description.

Aerobic: Highly dependent on good blood supply to muscles and for removal of waste products

  • provides continuous energy supply for long periods of time

Anaerobic: Oxygen is not required and lactate is not produced as a waste product

  • Advantage: immediately available when exercise starts

  • provides energy to support high intensity exercise

  • no toxic waste is released

  • Drawback: early onset of fatigue

  • Takes 3 mins if the horse rests completely for replenishment

Lactate: Toxic waste product of anaerobic lactic metabolism

Anaerobic Threshold : The intensity of exercise at which the blood lactate rises and onset of blood lactate accumulation

*See Conditioning Sport Horses by Hilary M. Clayton for further discussion about all of the above information.

These reasons are why we use INTERVAL TRAINING!! Yay, JImmy Wofford.

What does this mean?

5″ @ 220 m/m w/2″i +

4″ @ 400 m/m w/2″i

At this stage in the discussion, I was starting to see the glaze fall over people’s eyes and their fingers have indents from writing so much! I had everyone look up interval sets and discussed the theory of interval training with graphs, charts, and walking demonstrations on the carpet in the lounge at MEC.

Since this blog post is getting quite long as well, from this point in the workshop, everyone went and suited up, and rode the interval sets together! Ohhhh the pain of 2 pointing!!!

I’m impressed by everyone’s attention and eagerness to learn the stuff behind the methodology. I very much look forward to the next workshop. If you have any topics of concentration you would like to see presented, please let me know!

Ride on!

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
No tags yet.
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page