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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Tevis - Details III (Heat Conditioning)

A short post since I’m currently trying to finish two papers before a July 31st deadline! The papers are worth money beyond the $5/month this blog earns me, so I fear that you - My Dear Reader - get the short end of the stick.

Heat Conditioning
The Heat conditioning regime worked like a charm and I think it was THE key factor why Farley looked good all day.  As a recap, 21 days before Tevis I started working Farley in the middle of the day at freedom, gradually increasing the time. Initially I worked her “naked” because we were in the middle of a heat wave and I thought it unfair to make it any harder, but eventually our free lunging sessions were done in my biggest heaviest saddle with a rump rug. The longest session was around 30 min.  Once I rode, but the rest were all ground sessions.

From my research, the cardio changes in response to heat conditioning are completed in the first week, and most of the other physiological changes are completed by day 14. The “rate of decay” (ie how long until the heat conditioning goes away) is a couple of weeks in humans - we don’t really know for horses.  Because of “real life” I was able to regularly do sessions on Farley for the first 14 days of the 21 day period, but didn’t do anything in the last week.  However because of my research, I knew that I had done it long enough to get most of the benefit, and I wasn’t going to lose that benefit because of the week off.

I have to be completely honest, I didn’t even notice the heat during the day.  Not on my horse, not on me.  Not when I was running, not when I was getting off and running on foot.  My horse didn’t have trouble pulsing down, wasn’t heat stressed, and I never had to do any intense cooling. I didn’t get around to taking regular rectal temps throughout the ride but the two times I did (Redstar and Foresthill) the temps were under 101, indicating that my horse was successfully dissipating the heat load.

As most of you know, I’m experimenting with doing endurance at a very very low number of conditioning miles. Riding less mileage means that I’m always looking for something that will give me more bang for my buck for the miles I am conditioning for. I think that dedicating my last 3 weeks into Tevis to heat training was an example of doing exactly that - it something that helped my horse immensely at a very low risk - less risk than if I was doing distance or speed in the saddle, putting stress on the horses’ musculoskeletal structures.

I did notice the heat after dark. It’s like, both me and the horse expected it to be hot during the day, so we didn’t wrinkle our nose at it, and just did our job. But when I left Foresthill at 8:30, and it started to get dark, I wondered where all the dust came from that made it hard for me to see the trail. But then I realized it was STEAM.  And then I got mad. How DARE it not cool down for me and my horse after riding in the summer heat all day?  I don’t think Farley actually cared, but I was indignant on her behalf. Instead of feeling the magic of riding after dark by the glow bars I was thinking “OMG I’m not suppose to have sweat running down my shirt after dark.”

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