Team GB Endurance rider, Nicki Thorne, shares her tips on training the endurance horse using the Enduro Equine Fitness Tracker.
As an endurance rider, monitoring the heart rates of your horses is an essential part of the sport.
Having access to heart rate data is absolutely crucial because you need to know what level of fitness your horse has, and you need to know how your training is going based on your training plan. At the start of the season, take your aspirational ride date and work backwards from that date to map out the time plan of your training programme.
If you don’t know how fit your horse is, you won’t really know how to ride that horse in that race. Using a heart rate monitor to understand your horse’s heart rate really determines whether your horse is fit enough to achieve the competition that you are aiming for.
Monitoring your horses heart rate in training can help determine whether the horse is fit enough to go round very gently and that may be exactly what you’re doing with a young or inexperienced horse or with an advanced horse like my horse Mousey, who was aiming for the European Championships. I knew if I wanted to race her and she is extremely difficult to get fit and train, I needed to be absolutely certain that she was as fit as I could possibly get her to go which is why the heart rate data is crucial to your training plan.
Collecting heart rate data is absolutely critical to what we are doing as endurance riders, because if you don’t know your horse’s heart rate in any given circumstance you can’t really foretell how things will be on the day of your ride or competition.
You will always have elements in competition that will change, the horses will be more excited, things may go wrong, there will be a lot of stuff happening around you that doesn’t happen in your home environment so you need to know what your home base is and what your fitness base is so you can judge how much above that is purely excitement, adrenaline and the atmosphere or how much of that is that there is something wrong and you are riding too fast or you are riding above your horses fitness ability.
Or really importantly whether your horse has some element of pain or distress as that’s what a high heart rate can indicate. And with a lot of the endurance horses, if they vet out lame they would have experienced that the horse would take longer to pulse down as they come into the vet gate and it must be below 64 beats per minute.
If a horse normally recovers in 1 or 2 minutes and is taking 5, 6, 7 or 8 minutes only three things have happened
* You’ve ridden beyond that horse’s training and fitness ability, so it’s more fatigued, it can’t recover how the horse has been in training.
* There is some pain somewhere. The horse is possibly lame and is hurting and the heart rate has gone high.
* The horse is very distressed by the atmosphere and the environment, it’s all been too much for it.
One of the key things about competing is being able to get your horse to peak fitness. The way that you can do that is by tracking your horse’s heart rate as you are training and ensuring that your horse’s heart rate can remain as low as it can when your horse is recovering from a piece of exercise.
What I mean by that is that you’ve done your canter exercise, or you’ve been out on a long training ride, we are looking to see how long it takes for the horse to pulse down. So we’re checking the heart rate as we are riding along and then we are seeing how quickly the horse’s heart rate gets to below 64 bmp as a minimum and preferably a lot lower than that.
Understanding how quickly a horse can recover after exercise is a key indication of his level of fitness. We are using the Enduro Equine Fitness Tracker to measure that on a daily basis as we work towards a competition. If it’s going the wrong way and the horse’s recovery heart rate is going higher, then there is something clearly wrong with the horse.