Abbi Lambrecht has owned her molly mule, Bootsie, for nine years. What began as a summer project in high school has blossomed into a lifelong partnership. After purchasing a Hylofit last month, Abbi was pleased to learn that tracking heart rate in real time made it possible to back up her instincts with data.
In order to help Bootsie work through her body (she and Abbi train and compete in dressage, and are hoping to ride at First Level soon), Abbi has invested time and research into finding the best maintenance therapies for her mule. "We have been doing acupuncture for two years," Abbi said. "Acupuncture has been a staple for all under saddle work with Bootsie. With acupuncture we have been able to support Bootsie’s SI to the point she has found a proper three beat canter. She also has an easier time working comfortably over her back and into the bridle with regular acupuncture." In addition to acupuncture, Bootsie has regular massage therapy.
Upon starting to use the Hylofit, Abbi noticed a correlation between physical "symptoms" and the heart rate data captured by the heart rate monitor.
"Before acupuncture, Bootsie felt stiff while riding," Abbi said. "There was no real 'go' button and our canter was four beats. Before using the Hylofit, I would have brushed these moments off as “mule moments”, but the Hylofit made it clear that there was more to the issue."
Abbi posted this screenshot on her social media:
"With the Hylofit, I saw a huge spike in her heart rate as I asked for a trot, a canter in both directions, and a higher than average working heart rate," she explained. "This information was rather alarming. After checking that her resting heart rate was in a safe zone, my vet and I decided Bootsie was feeling discomfort while working and acupuncture would likely help address the problem."
"My vet came out a couple days later to do her acupuncture. Fortunately, Bootsie’s heart rate was much more typical post acupuncture, meaning she not only feels easier to ride but feels more comfortable in her body. Now I have my ride alerts set to let me know when her zone intensity reaches Zone 3; I immediately know if there is a jump in heart rate which is an extremely helpful feature, especially in keeping Bootsie comfortable and preventing injuries."
How does riding and training a mule differ from working with a horse? "Riding and training Bootsie has definitely been different than training any horse in the past. How much of it is 'mule behavior' versus Bootsie is what I’m not sure of since she is my first mule," Abbi explained. "She is very self preserved and earning her trust was a project in itself."
"Once I got it she’s happy to keep me as an equal unlike my horse who really looks to me for guidance," Abbi continued. "The idea of being an equal plays heavily into how I ride her as she really can’t feel forced into anything or she will literally just plant her feet and basically tell me to ask differently. Overall she is a very humbling animal and equally as rewarding as I know every piece she gives me we really worked as a team to get."Abbi is happy to have a tool to use to strengthen her partnership with Bootsie. "My favorite use has been seeing the inside details of how Bootsie’s strength is improving," she said. "It has been really helpful to see Bootsie’s fitness improve and to have a clear picture of what is truly hard for her and not so that I can focus my time properly in each ride."