It’s Week 5 of the Hylofit Training Club! How are you doing so far? Adding regular fitness work into any horse’s routine can be beneficial for preventing injury and improving endurance. By slowly increasing the duration of the work, you’re building your horse’s physical capabilities as well as your own.
If you’ve been following along with these weekly plans, you now have some rides to study against one another. We thought we’d give you some useful data points to take a closer look at so that you can connect your horse’s heart rate data to how it relates to your training program.
Need to catch up, or just joining us? You can start the Hylofit Training Club from the beginning or visit previous weeks using these links:
Recovery Rate: We’ve talked about heart rate recovery (HRR) before, but it’s worth another mention. You should be monitoring HRR not only at the end of each ride but also in between exercises.
For example, in this week’s conditioning plan, make note of you and your horse’s heart rates during each walk break. Calculate the difference between the heart rate at the end of the trot or canter period and the heart rate at the end of two minutes of walking. This gives you an idea of recovery.
A reasonably fit horse should see a return back to or below 100 bpm two minutes after ceasing exercise. As always, tracking your horse’s averages will give you a better idea of what is normal and what’s not. If your horse seems slower to recover than usual, consider backing off the intensity and measuring recovery again to check for comparison numbers.
Horse vs. Rider Heart Rate: We highly recommend riding with your Rider Chest Strap or your Apple Watch so that you can monitor your own heart rate and performance. Of particular note will be the Horse + Rider graph on your Ride Summary.
Take note of any times at which it looks like you’re working much harder than your horse. Does your horse respond well to your aids? If he’s “dead” to the leg and requires a lot of encouragement to move forward, you may see your heart rate spike with exertion while his remains calm and cool. Study your Ride Summary with this type of perspective, connecting changes in heart rate to what was happening at that moment in the ride.
Symmetry Between Directions: Since each conditioning plan has an equal amount of work in each direction, take a look at the heart rates during each gait. If you see your horse’s heart rate spike in one direction but not the other, take into account what could have caused this. Perhaps there was a scary corner that warranted a spook. Maybe your horse has a “weaker” side that requires more strength to hold together. Take note of any of these differences, and monitor them for changes in your next ride.
The more you can learn to read your heart rate data better, the more informed you will be about your training and performance. Now is a great time to be working on the finer details of your riding, even if you don’t plan to compete. Riding is, after all, an art and there is always something to improve. Having these data points can help you do that while also making the best decisions for your horse.
Exercise of the Week:
This exercise is intended to help sharpen your aids and keep your horse thinking. You can incorporate this into your conditioning work or do it during a different ride.
Set up two ground poles or cavaletti at a distance of six strides apart (84 feet). At the canter, practice riding this line in six strides first to get comfortable with your pace. After that, try to add or take away strides safely, allowing the aid to come from your seat and leg rather than your hands. Horses of any discipline can benefit from this exercise, as it requires strong communication from the rider and balance of the horse to adjust the stride.
Make sure you are properly cooling down after each ride. Even fit horses need to walk on a loose rein with a swinging back to allow their muscles to cool off. This reduces injury risk and will be very important during hot weather.