In 2017, life as Kristine Hartman knew it changed forever.
A longtime resident of Ventura, California, Kristine and her husband, Mike, saw their lives turned upside down in a matter of minutes. That December, massive fires erupted in Ventura county, prompting the emergency evacuation and devastation of property of thousands of residents and their animals.
The fire, named the Thomas Fire, was relentlessly fueled by the notoriously strong Santa Ana wind system. The fire, affecting acreage in both Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, would go on to burn nearly 300,000 acres.
While Kristine, her husband, and their horses, Sam and Tessie, were alive, they were now homeless. Life would go on, but it would forever look different.
Before the fires, both Kristine and her husband were diehard, dedicated endurance competitors. Kristine’s list of accolades could fill a novel with all the stories to tell and memories to share. She’s completed the famous Tevis Cup, an annual 100-mile endurance race in the Pacific Northwest, seven times and has countless first place finishes and “Best Condition” titles to her name.
Competition was a way of life, Kristine says, but ever since the fires, her perspective and her priorities have shifted.
While Kristine still competes and trains hard, she’s learned to take the time to stop and smell the figurative roses. “After the fires, we couldn’t ride because after horses’ lungs are exposed to smoke it can be very dangerous to exert them too soon,” she explained. “We took the horses up north to Auburn, California to get them away from that smoky air and give them a full chance to rest.”
It wouldn’t be until the following April that Kristine would compete again. But something had shifted even within the competition itself.
“We went to a three-day Pioneer Ride and just took it easy and didn’t worry about time,” Kristine recalled. “We still wanted to compete, but it was nice to not be so worried about placing — though somehow we still ended up not far out of the lead!”
In this shifting of priorities, Kristine’s training schedule for her horses has also seen some changes. Now, Kristine is proud to utilize the Hylofit system in her everyday training, as it truly helps her train smarter, maximizing the time she spends in the saddle.
“A lot of people over train,” Kristine commented. “You see so many people asking how to train a horse for an endurance race while working a full-time job. It’s all about optimizing the training — you don’t have to work them hard every single day.”
“Hylofit is great to keep tabs on heart rate,” Kristine explained. “During your rides, one of the biggest parts of training is just getting used to being in the saddle for prolonged periods of time.
By introducing longer rides at variable speeds and keeping track of heart rate information, you can see when you’re achieving your intensity goals and tailor your riding time accordingly.”
Here is where Hylofit comes in handy. A big key to correct training and conditioning for Kristine? Long, slow distance.
Having a lot of hills to incorporate into her training has been instrumental for maximizing her training schedule’s effectiveness.
Having Hylofit, she says, helps her know exactly how hard to push each horse.
“I don’t really want to get their heart rate up over the 180 to 190 beats per minute range, so keeping track with Hylofit in real-time helps me know when this range is reached,” Kristine said.
Pro tip: Did you know you can set ride alerts through the Hylofit app? Turn on an alert to sound when your horse’s heart rate reaches its target. This eliminates the need to pull out your phone mid-ride!
Another great use of Hylofit in Kristine’s training is tracking recovery. In endurance competition, vets will monitor the time it takes for a horse’s heartbeat to get down to a healthy recovery rate of 60 beats per minute.
“Different competitions will set different time ranges for the heart rate to come down, but Hylofit makes it easy for me to see this information in my training,” Kristine said. “That way, I know what to expect at the vet check — and it’s helpful to know my horses’ average recovery times so that I can see any sudden changes in the data that might be alarming.”
Even though life looks a little different for the Hartmans now — they elected to downsize after losing their property to the fire and now live the traveling lifestyle out of an Airstream trailer — the love of the horses and the sport of endurance hasn’t faded.
For Kristine, at the heart of her training is a simple desire to truly know her horse. “There is no substitute for truly knowing your horse and having a sense of partnership,” she said. “Hylofit has helped take the guesswork out.”
Thanks to a new set of priorities and with a little help from Hylofit to ensure she’s getting the most out of every ride without losing an edge, Kristine now celebrates something she never took the time to notice before: the roses.