Tips to get back on track with your horse’s training after a period of rest

 In Conditioning, Heart rate monitors

No rider is able to avoid it: sometimes it will be impossible to train your horse for a while. For example, the weather is bad, you are ill or going on vacation, or there needs to be a resting period after a peak performance. How do you commence with your training again? And how can you use your equine heart rate monitor?

Every horse will lose some of its fitness during a resting period, so if you continue where you left off, you might get confronted with injuries due to overburdening. The amount of fitness that will be lost depends on the horse, on the length of the resting period, on whether your horse has been sick or not, and the activities that have been carried out during the resting period.

That’s why it is impossible to provide you with a schedule that works for every horse. As a rider, you will have to assess the fitness of your horse on a case-by-case basis.

Loss of fitness in horses

The good news is that horses retain their fitness a lot longer than people do. After a full training stop, it takes several weeks for the muscles to completely lose the strength gained from previous work. In some cases, it can take up to three months before the amount of muscle glycogen (the storage of sugar in the muscles) is reduced back to its pre-training amount. The same goes for blood vessels, which also retain their trained state for several weeks in a row after training has stopped. For bones, this can take several months.

While the decline in fitness is slower than for humans, it remains a fact that the fitness of your horse will slowly deteriorate during a period of rest. Taking a step back prevents injuries and overburdening. This ensures that you do not have to stop your training completely!

Taking a step back

How big this step will have to be depends on many factors. Be extra cautious when your horse:

  • Has been sick
  • Has given birth to a foal
  • Is old
  • Is very young and hasn’t had much training before the resting period
  • Has had an indoor resting period
  • Has chronic problems, for example in the respiratory system
  • Is overweight

Horses that suffer from one of the issues above may need to start all over again with training. A normally trained horse that has had a rest period during winter can usually regain its former fitness within a few months. Nevertheless, ensure you play it safe and take a step back with regards to training, as to be certain that your horse is able to handle the work. If this is the case, you can build up from there smoothly. The most important thing is to check up on your horse on a daily basis (to avoid overburdening) and to adjust your schedule accordingly.

How does loss of fitness relate to heart rate?

Normally, your horse’s heart rate will go down during exercise when its fitness is increased. Is the heart rate higher than it was before the period of rest? And does it take longer for the heart rate to recover after training? In this case, your horse has lost some of its fitness.

Gradually build op your horse’s training, and keep track of its heart rate and the recovery time: these should be improving. You can read more about how you can do this in our previous blog.

Are the heart rates, recovery time and/or resting heart rate suddenly higher than normal? Then your horse may be suffering from overburdening. In our next blog we will tell you how to prevent overworking, so that you can prevent injuries!

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