Matters of the Heart: Why Training with Heart Rate Helps Every Horse

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2019 issue of Eventing USA magazine.

Take a moment, before you dive into this article, to picture the most stoic horse you know. Surely you know the idea well – the horse that never shows pain, doesn’t wear his heart on his saddle pad, that always comes to the ring ready to work.

Now, take a moment to think of the saintly older horse at the barn. The horse that every lesson kid wants to ride, before they graduate to the newer, faster models. The horse who shows a new kid the ropes of eventing for a few months at a time, coming out of semi-retirement long enough to hop around a few Novice level courses.

Finally, picture your horse of a lifetime. For most of us, that one horse is the one we won’t ever forget and won’t ever replace. The horse that took us around our first Preliminary or Advanced course. The horse that earned us our first blue ribbon. The horse that gave us “the bug.”

All three of these horses have one major thing in common: they all deserve to have us, their advocates, looking out for their overall health and well-being. As eventers, we focus heavily on fitness and conditioning, but another element we should be tracking is health.

Monitoring heart rate is useful for both fitness and conditioning as well as keeping a finger on the pulse of your horse’s overall picture of health. Let’s talk about heart rate training and monitoring as it pertains to each of the types of horses exemplified above.

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