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Thursday, July 15, 2010

A "study" in Conditioning

OK - more like an observation. Or theory. Or hypothesis.

Mustang Sally went with me again (with a friend mounted) to preride the Tevis finish to the river crossing and back.

Sally was slightly thinner than last year (Thank Goodness!) and the weather was slightly cooler (100 degrees as opposed to 115 degrees).

After 25 minutes of untacking, cooling the horses with the hose, and waiting for my friend to get back with the car I got curious.

What was the difference in pulse?

Both horses finished the ride looking good with plenty of energy (unlike last year where poor fat Sally was led in and then tried to do "death by trailer" on the way home - probably trying to roll in the shavings inside the trailer).

I had loaded Farley by this time in the trailer and while she wasn't upset...she wasn't exactly thrilled to be in the hot trailer while Sally was tied up in the shade still grazing.

Farley's pulse was.....44

Sally's pulse was....60

So I have a couple of theories -

#1: Farley is really fit and Sally is.....not
#2: Farely is fit but also has the advantage of a lower resting pulse. Sally is average fit but naturally has a higher resting pulse.

What's interesting is that the horse's "looked" almost identical after the ride!

I don't ride with Sally often, but I think I'm going to keep an eye on her pulse - both resting and after activity. It's interesting. It's fine and dandy to know what a horse's pulse is/how they are recovering etc., but what's even more interesting (to me) is to have a fit horse doing the same work as a comparison.

Sally is great on the trail and would make a nice little endurance horse, so if she does enough work where she's 50 mile "fit", it will be even MORE interesting to monitor her pulse. My experience is that fit non-arabs will be outpulsed by a quaisi-fit arab a majority of the time. I don't particularly want to get on my soap box about the 30 minute pulse finish criteria here (an AERC thing for you non-endurance people) but it will certaintly be interesting to monitor Sally over time....


  1. A few more variables for you to consider:
    * the hydration level of the horse will seriously impact heartrate. If the horse is dehydrated, the blood serum level is lower, the blood is thicker and "sludgy" and harder for the heart to move. Thus the heart beats more frequently to do the job adequately.

    * attitude of the horse AND rider can totally affect heartrate. If the horse is a worrier or a stress puppy, the heartrate will be higher. If the rider is a stress puppy, the horse's heartrate will be higher as well.

    I rode and trained for years with a woman who was always angry about something or other. Her fit, well-bred, costly arab gelding--which was conditioned alongside my old standie mare--always took longer to pulse down. My theory: my horse was listening to me breathe calmly as we approached the vetcheck, and her horse was listening to her rant and fret. It made a difference.

    I also "teach" my horses to pulse down, by dismounting and handing them a granola bar as we walk into the vetcheck. It's the only time they get that type of granola bar, so they learn that the next task for them will be to hang out and eat and they relax even as we are entering the chaos of a vetcheck. If the horse is expecting that the rider could mount back up and charge away into the hills at any moment, s/he won't relax so readily.

  2. I forgot about the electrolytes affecting the pulse. I´m so glad the cookeis are working for me so far. I much better at giving them consistently throughout the ride and I think that will help. I´m not sure whether I´m going to give a cookie every 30 minutes and then another at each water stop, or only give them at water and vet stops (multiple cookies for each stop). I guess Iĺl just have to see what she wants. Farley seems to self regulate really well.

    Ive asked my crew to have two buckets of water available for her at the vet checks - an elyte one and regular one so that will give her a chance to.

    I will be carrying a syringe or two as a back up just in case she stops eating the cookies late in teh ride (sheś been known to stop eating carrots etc later in rides because all she wants is hay, so I´m not sure if sheĺl continue to eat cookies all the way through a 100.)


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