Discipline: LD/Endurance, CMO, Trail Rider, Cartoonist, Writer, Co-Director/ Green Bean Endurance
Favorite Links for training, gear, and memberships!
- National Association of Competitive Mounted Orienteering
- HOW TO CMO
- What is CMO?
- Old Dominion Endurance Rides
- Renegade Hoof Boots
- Riding vs. Racing a discussion with the Duck.
- Trumbull Mountain's INTRO TO ENDURANCE RIDING
- Principles of Conditioning
- Conditioning the endurance horse by SERA
- Short Article: Feeding & Training the Endurance Horse
- Feeding the Endurance Horse, Swedish Author
- Preventing Dehydration In the Endurance Horse, Ontario Competitive Trail Riding Association
- Jim Holland's fantastic training links here!
- South Eastern Distance Rider's Association
January 9, 2010
Heart Rate Monitoring for Dummies
I wish that I had all of this information when I started training Phebes. All of the outward indicators were that Phebes was well conditioned for her first LD. You know...she is lean, she is muscled, she is pushing for more and more speed, she doesn't get winded. All those external indicators that tell a rider that a horse is doing well. Right? WRONG! The external indicators are only a part of the equation of what is going on with your horse. What is happening on the INSIDE? is a more reliable measure of how well your conditioning program is working.
The Heart Rate
Beats per minute (bpm) and what your horse's bpm's tell you.
32-42 ( is a normal resting rate)(All is well Zone)
132-142 ( is an aerobic working rate)(Safety Zone)
150-160 (horse is teetering into anerobic range where lactic acid will build)
180+ (THIS IS THE DANGER ZONE)(Red lights are flashing & Buzzers are going off)
How to use your Heart Rate Monitor to determine if your conditioning program is working.
Suppose tomorrow you are going to start a training program over a five mile course on your out of shape horse. You plan to use this same course to measure the horse's fitness over the weeks of training ahead. You will take the same route, climb the same hills, run the same flat section, essentially set up a testing ground to measure how fit your horse has become. Suppose the first week you do the course and your horse has a working rate of 150 bpm. Each week you will repeat this course and watch for the lowest working rate over the same variables (the same five mile course at the same relative pace). As condition improves you should begin to see a gradual drop in the working rate. 150 becomes 140....then 136....a few weeks out the horse is working at 122 bpm. This is a quantifiable measurement to determine an increase in fitness.
Working not "resting" rates are your measure of fitness.
Please take note that a horse's resting heart rate will not decrease with level of fitness. Unlike humans, the resting rate is not related to overall fitness. It is the WORKING rate that is an indicator of how fit the horse is, and how well the horse is handling the stresses of the work load. Working rates should be decreasing as fitness improves.
Monitoring Recovery is another way to measure the horse's level of fitness vs. workload.
A horse that is working within the limits of his level of condition will recover to less than 64 bpm / in ten minutes or less after ending an aerobic workout. Failure to recover may mean several things:
1)The level of stress exceeds the level of the horse's condition.
2)A metabolic imbalance caused by lactic acid build-up, electrolyte imbalance, or dehydration.
3)Muscle, skeletal, or connective tissue injury, or pain from equipment failure.
You can also monitor recovery times simply by recording how quickly your horse reaches baseline (64 bpm). Recovery times should drop as condition improves. Maybe the first week your horse takes 10 minutes to recover, but after six weeks of fitness training he is recovering in 5 minutes. This tells you that you can increase the intensity of work in your conditioning program. Also, a horse that pulses below 52 bpm within ten minutes after work stops is probably not being worked hard enough to cause adaptation towards a higher level of fitness. Step of the intensity gradually while continuing to reach your baseline pulse in 10 minutes post ride.
How to measure Cardiac Recovery Index (CRI)as a response to metabolic stress.
You are trotting down the trail and your horse is working at a good working rate of 120-130 bpm. Stop your horse, wait for a recovery to a baseline of 64 bpm then immediately trot out for about 100 yards, stop your horse, and wait one minute. The horse should be able to recover to 67 bpm. If the horse does not drop within 3 bpm of the initial reading you may be riding your horse faster than his level of conditioning warrants. Time to slow things down. CRI's of no more than 3 bpm above baseline are recovering well and working within their fitness level, more than 4 bpm above baseline means the horse is not recovering well, while 8 bpm over baseline indicates a lack of recovery. The horse is being over worked for his level of fitness. In this case you would rest the horse for fifteen minutes and repeat the CRI. If still elevated stop work and determine what is wrong with the horse.
Heart rates for Fartleks
Your heart rate monitor can also be helpful when you are using Fartleks (Speedplay) as part of your conditioning program. Fartleks are short bursts of speed within the overall training session lasting for several minutes. You are pushing the heart rate up into the anaerobic phase of 160-175 bpm range. Once you hit the range you hold it at that level for a few minutes and thn you back down to an aerobic working gait and heart rate (<142 bpm).
Heart rates for Interval Training
Interval Training differs from Fartleks in that the session is shorter, more intense, and done in repeated sets. Remember the danger zone (180 bpm +)? With interval training you are purposely pushing into the danger zone for very short periods of time (1-2 minutes) with heart rates as high as 200 bpm, followed by active rest (aerobic trotting along), then as soon as the pulse hits aerobic rate, bam!!! You are pushing hard to the danger zone again, then backing off to active rest, only to repeat for however many repetitions your program warrants.(Tom Ivers is a good resource on this subject).
There are folks who think that HRM's (heart rate monitors) are a waste of money. But I'll never regret having one more tool on board to assist me to analyze how my horse is working (aerobic vs. anaerobic), and perhaps increasing the odds that I'll be finishing with a healthy horse. If riding by my HRM means I'll never cross the finish line first...well that is alright by me, because To Finish is to Win! ~E.G.