The Importance of Monitoring Your Own Heart Rate: Denielle Gallagher's Hylofit Experience

Using Hylofit’s wireless heart monitor for horses and riders, international dressage rider Denielle Gallagher felt both peace of mind as well as validation when observing heart rate data trends for each horse in her program.

But what she didn’t consider at the time was how much Hylofit would help her with her own health.

Having data to inform her training decisions helped her feel more on track for competitions and satisfied with the horses’ individual programs. Indeed, customized training and care for each horse is a focal point for most riders. But what of our own bodies? Our own training?  

Most riders reading this can relate: in many instances, we treat our horses with more care than we do our own bodies. 

Denielle admits she was much the same for most of her career. Beginning about two years ago, she began noticing that her heart would start racing after she would do something simple, such as bending down to tie her shoe. It didn’t happen often, so she thought nothing of it.

But the palpitations kept happening, with increasing frequency. “Having a career in horses is stressful, so I really just thought maybe I was internalizing things,” Denielle explained. “I would think ‘wow, I must really have bad anxiety.’”

So when Denielle was set up to begin using Hylofit, she was primarily focused on how training with heart rate would help her horses become healthier and more successful. After her rides, Denielle noticed that the Hylofit Rider Transmitter was showing some interesting readings, but her excitement about her horse’s data took precedence.

Eagerly, she sent her Ride Summary screens to Hylofit founder and close friend Eliane van Reesema. “This device is so cool!” she wrote in a text message. “Ignore my heart rate, I don’t know why it’s all over the place.”

Then, Denielle’s phone rang. It was Eliane, calling to emphatically tell Denielle that the rider heart rate on her summaries was alarmingly high. 

“Eliane told me that my readings looked very abnormal and that it would probably be a good idea to go and get a closer look,” she recalled. Suddenly, those seemingly minor heart palpitations were right there, staring her in the face. 

Note: rider heart rate is indicated by the blue line on the following chart from one of Denielle's rides. As a reference, healthy human heart rates can range anywhere from 75-170 during various exercise intensities, dependent on a variety of factors. 

After seeing the heart rate data showing her own heart rate peaking well into the 200s on a light trail ride, Denielle set up with a cardiologist while on a trip to France, wearing a heart monitor for several days to take readings. 

Sure enough, Denielle’s heart rate was spiking up towards 180-190 while she was asleep. Further testing revealed that Denielle had a condition called supraventricular tachycardia, defined as “an abnormally fast heart rhythm arising from improper electrical activity in the upper part of the heart”.

Denielle is now on medication that helps regulate her heart’s rhythm, and her mother invested in an Apple Watch, the newest of which can now provide EKG data on demand. She will also be undergoing surgery later this year to correct the issue. And she says she has Hylofit to thank for providing the real data that shed light on the issue in the first place. 

It was a wake-up call for Denielle, who says her horses have always been the top priority. “It really showed me that we are not invincible,” she said. “It’s really important that we listen to our own bodies. We as riders are so tough, we feel we need to push through everything. We take better care of our horses than ourselves, constantly. The reality is that we need to do better at listening to ourselves and making sure we are as healthy as we can be, too.”

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Photography by Susan J Stickle Photography and Queca Franco.

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