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Discipline: LD/Endurance, CMO, Trail Rider, Cartoonist, Writer, Co-Director/ Green Bean Endurance

December 21, 2010

Crazy over Conditioning

Well there is a slight chance that I'm just plain crazy period!  But I'm always so thrilled to find informative articles on fitness and conditioning.  It is the only way for me to know if I'm doing it right, and if I'm doing it right, what can I do to make things better.  After reading The Physiology of Conditioning  a few little endurance minded gems were of interest to me.  I understand the theory of progressive loading, and I probably worked that system better last summer and fall than anything I had tried before.  The core of what we were doing was Low Heart Rate Training, with progressive loading through distance (not speed).  How did I know it worked?   Heart rate recoveries.  We were making good time (completion speed) with working heart rates under 131 bpm, pulsing to 60 or less in well under ten minutes when we were done.  That constant stretch of the long slow distance coupled with low heart rate (slow speeds) built a better horse.  Not a perfect horse...I'm still riding miss psycho moody mare, but condition of the horse, was really the best she's been that last LD.   I never thought in my wildest imagination that I'd ever hear the vet say she is pulsed down to 47 bpm.  My head about did a double take because I wasn't sure I'd heard right, but then she said "have you even rode this horse today?"   That put a big smile on my face.   Now turn that around to the second day, and she was still pulsing down well, but the hills were getting to her.  It was our first attempt at a multi day and though I had prepared her to face the distance, we had not trained LSD back to back days.  So I'm hoping to add that into her conditioning program this spring.   I'm not quite sure how far we should go to train back to back, but I'm thinking 10-12 miles, two days in a row on our alternate session, and then a long single session of 24 miles at least once a month.  But however we do it, some consecutive training days are in order, followed by some low impact rest days.  

Hill training is good.  But I believe I'm letting her get off too easy on the hill work.  My hill training will get a little more serious soon as the footing will allow it.

So next I read Water and Electrolyte Balance in the Exercising Horse.  Did you know that an endurance horse can lose 22-88 pounds of fluid on a 50 mile ride?   I've not had the opportunity to weigh Phebes post ride, but I'd bet she drops close to a pound a mile.  You can almost see the weight fall off, and it is WATER.  She sweats more than any horse I've ever seen.  She even sweats standing still when its hot.  Keeping her hydrated is a challenge, and figuring out the right balance of electrolytes to support her is also a puzzle.  If she doesn't get enough, she won't drink, and her capillary refill is not so good (reduced volume of blood plasma?), if she gets too much electrolyte she doesn't want to eat, so there is no gas in the tank.   This article suggested giving mini-doses pre-ride, and replacing at least 50% of electrolyte losses during and post ride.  I also found it interesting that preloading electrolytes daily really isn't of much use, that the horse doesn't store them up like we do.   This article also got me to thinking about giving her water chasers (she drinks out of a pull top human power aid  bottle)  before and after low dose electrolytes might avoid irritating mucous membranes.    I know many who ride in non-humid conditions see no point to the electrolytes, but ride vets have stressed that she needs to have them. 

Pizza awaits!  Then crashing and maybe at least I can "dream" of riding.

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