Using heart rate in both training and horse care adds information that owners can use to make the best decisions for their horses’ health and happiness. After all, it’s true that horsewomen and men typically possess a “feel” for how their horses are going - but backing that instinct up with data gives riders that much more peace of mind.
How can a horse owner best integrate heart rate into their horse’s training and care routines? Let’s explore some basic ways. New to horse heart rate? Catch up on this blog series all about horse heart rate with Part 1 here.
Using Heart Rate for Horse Care
We’ve talked at length about the importance of measuring your horse’s Resting Heart Rate (RHR). Why is this? Typically speaking, an adult horse will have a RHR range of 25-40 bpm. However, there is no “ideal” RHR for a horse.
Research shows that every horse is unique, so the best way to know what is “normal” for your horse is to regularly check her Resting Heart Rate.
What if your horse presents with an abnormally high RHR? Let’s say your horse typically checks in around 30 bpm, but today she’s standing in her stall at 60 bpm. This could be indicative of pain, stress, anxiety, etc. This abnormal heart rate gives you a place to start. Perhaps it’s an anomaly, or perhaps there is an underlying issue that may require further investigation.
Hylofit recommends taking periodic RHR measurements. Within the Hylofit app, each Horse Profile will have a spot for that horse’s average RHR. This is a great way to stay organized and know each horse in the barn.
Using Heart Rate for Horse Training
There are multiple ways to apply heart rate to your training, depending on your overall goals. We always recommend working with a vet and nutritionist to determine the best plan for your horse, but having heart rate and a knowledge of how to interpret it will always be useful. How do you know if your horse is getting fitter?
Generally speaking, horses’ heart rates will show a lower average at the same workload (speed, distance, etc.) than during previous rides. For example, let’s say you do regular conditioning work with your horse. By tracking heart rate during each ride, you’ll be able to take note of your horse’s highest, lowest, and average heart rates. Are these numbers trending down?
The best way to determine fitness, however, is to track Heart Rate Recovery (HRR). A horse should have a heart rate of below 100 bpm within two minutes of work, and a heart rate of 60 bpm or lower after 10 minutes of work. A slower recovery can indicate lack of fitness or overexertion.
Conversely, a horse that shows a quicker HRR is gaining fitness. This metric is used to determine exertion levels in the endurance and eventing vet boxes.
Coming up next: we’ll take a deeper dive into the various applications of using heart rate in your horse management routine.