AND UNDERSTAND THE IMPACT
OF ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS ON HEART RATE
The heart rate is an objective measure of intensity and will let you know how hard your horse is working during a ride. When starting a training regimen, use Hylofit to establish a baseline measurement of your horse’s heart rate during a simple training session. This is important as you will be able to compare future training sessions to this initial one and track improvements over time. This baseline is also important because, in addition to workload, heart rate can be indicative of stress and pain. Knowing your horse’s normal heart rate range will help you identify if something unusual is happening with your horse.
Not only is it important to monitor heart rate during a workout, but a lot can also be learned about the overall fitness of your horse by paying attention to recovery rate (the time it takes for your horse’s heart rate to return to normal). Recovery rates are an important way to assess fitness as they are faster in more fit horses. To understand your horse’s recovery rate, monitor the heart rate after exercise. Leave the monitor on for an additional 10 minutes after you finish your workout and take measurements at the 2, 5 and 10 minute marks. The heart rate of a fit horse will return to around 60 beats per minute (bpm) in the walk, 10-minutes post workout. A longer recovery time could indicate the workout was too much for your horse’s current fitness level. With Hylofit, you can compare training sessions and recovery rates over time for quick insights into your horse’s changing fitness.
While heart rate is a great measure of workout intensity, don’t forget that there are other variables that can lead to a raised heart rate during exercise – such as temperature, footing and stress.
Impact of temperature: The hotter and more humid it is, the more difficult it is for your horse to cool down as sweating is less effective in high humidity. Horses that are not used to higher, more humid temperatures must be given time to acclimatize in order to perform. You can’t expect your horse to adapt simply by being in the new climate. A minimum of 2 weeks of training in the new climate may be needed. Remember, untrained horses should not be forced to train in high heat until basic fitness has been achieved at cooler temperatures. Hylofit will display the higher workout intensity and you can use it to track how quickly your horse adapts to the new climate.
Impact of footing: Soft or uneven terrains require a horse to work harder to perform. A horse’s heart rate will be higher when the ground is less stable for similar levels of work. Think of riding on the beach in the loose sand or on a rough trail through the woods. These environments are more difficult for your horse to navigate than a hard, flat footing.
Impact of stress: When a horse is excited or stressed, his heart rate will go up. This is very apparent before a competition. A horse enters the arena and his heart rate goes up in reaction to the noise of the crowd. Raised heart rate due to stress can also be seen when a horse is spooked, during transit, or when he is outside his normal routine and comfort zone.
An unusually high heart rate that can’t be attributed to one of these factors could be a sign of injury or illness. This is especially true if the heart rate was elevated before the training session even began. In this case, it is important to speak with your vet about possible concerns.
Remember to adapt training schedules based on how your horse is feeling, how hard he worked on the day(s) before and to adjust based on environmental factors that could impact the workout. Use Hylofit to track improvements to your horse’s fitness level. As fitness improves, your horse will be able to train more efficiently and resist fatigue during exercise.