7 tips for fitness training with a heart rate monitor for horses
Most riders know that a horse’s heart rate can tell you a lot about his or her general fitness. But how can you optimize the use of a heart rate monitor for horses?
In my previous blog, I wrote about the 5 aspects of your horse’s fitness, and how you can train them.
When you’re putting effort into training, you’ll want to know if your horse is making progress! A heart rate monitor is an essential tool to provide you with objective values, so you do not have to rely solely on your instincts. Follow these tips to get the most out of your heart rate monitor:
1. Monitor your horse’s health by measuring its resting heart rate on a set time each day. For most horses, this rate averages 20 to 35 beats per minute. Does the resting heart rate average 6 to 10 beats per minute more than normal? Then your horse could be suffering from stress, for example because of pain or tension.
2. Did you just get your new heart rate monitor? Get started by using it as much as you can during your training. At first, just have a look at the values to get to know your horse better. The average values are:
• During walk: 50-100, usually 70-90 beats per minute
• During trot: 80-150, usually 100-130
• During canter: 100-190, usually 120-150
• During gallop: 160-250 (Most horses can only perform this for a limited time. Are you not a professional trainer? Then do not train for more than 1 to 2 minutes with these heart rates to avoid injuries.
There are many other factors that can influence the heart rate: the surface, anxiety, other horses, temperature, excitement, food and of course genetic predisposition. Every horse is different and that’s why it is important to get to know your horse’s heart rate. By using the heart rate monitor as much as you can, you will learn what heart rates are normal for your horse and learn to notice when they are too high because of sickness or pain.
3. Fitness training will cause the heart rate to go down during exercise. This decrease can range from 10% to 15%. Throughout the season, compare the values for your horse in different paces to see if its fitness improves.
4. Always measure the recovery time after training. Fitness training causes the heart rate of your horse to drop quicker after exercise. For example, measure how long it takes for your horse’s heart rate to drop to 60 beats per minute after training. Or what the heart rate is after you quit trotting for 5 minutes. It does not really matter in what way you measure the recovery time, as long as you stick to the same method at all times. You can log the values in Equilog, so you can review them at all times.
5. Use your heart rate monitor during interval training. For example, perform a gallop with a heart rate of 130 for a few minutes. After this, pace back into a walk until the heart rate goes down to 80, and then gear back into a gallop. You should be able to notice that the time needed to reach the desired heart rate in walk will decrease, and that your horse is able to gallop for longer periods of time.
6. Create a standard heart rate test for your horse, and carry this out on a monthly basis. Perform the same exercise each time. This can either be a tough dressage test, a jumping course or a route through the forest. Measure the values during exercise as well as the recovery time. You can then compare these with earlier tests. Ensure to factor in differences in the weather and surface.
7. Never stop relying on your gut feeling. When the electrodes of the heart rate monitor become too dry, it can give you distorted values. Hence, it is important to always take into account signs like sweating, reduced impulsion and heavy breathing.
In our next blogs, we will give more tips on how to turn your horse into a happy athlete!