There have been many improvements in the science of horse training and fitness testing of horses over the last 30 years. Veterinarians are frequently asked to examine the horses which are either fit for training or not. The factors of good athletic performance of horses are many. The methods of horse training vary in purpose, uses, availability, breed, geographical locations, and availability of resources.
Horse training aims to improve performance. Many factors contribute to account in the horse. Physical fitness is the primary importance in the racehorses, although psychological factors also appear to be necessary. In events like dressage and showjumping, the skill may be more important than fitness.
Principles of Methods of Horse Training
Physical fitness is associated with the ability of the horse to do work. Therefore, to achieve wellness, it is necessary to enhance all systems’ functions, limiting work capacity. As the horse’s ability to use and regret ATP is a vital factor limiting performance, achieving an increase in the horse’s power to generate and utilize ATP is crucial for horse training.
Besides enhancing energy generation capacity, horse training should increase the stamina of the muscles, tendons, and skeleton, facilitating the horse to generate higher work outputs without scrubbing to injury.
Other factors that limit performance, particularly skills and psychology, are beyond this article’s scope. Skills horse training may result in improvements in gait, which results in increased efficiency of movement and a decrease in energy demands. Also, horse training methods may improve the physical condition, making it more willing to work. Psychological factors have a recognizable effect on the development of fatigue in humans and are likely to have a similar impact on horses.
1. Aerobic Horse Training
The horse training program is designed to improve the energy economy. It is essential to know the contribution of the various energy-producing pathways to ATP generation in the athletic performance for which the horse is being trained. Aerobic metabolism makes a definite contribution to ATP resynthesis during the exercise of any intensity.
Energy Requirement for Aerobic Horse Training
All horses being trained for any purpose required aerobic training as part of their program. In events that require relatively low energy turnover rates, such as dressage or endurance riding, aerobic metabolism can satisfy ATP synthesis demands. As for exercise, intensity increases. Anaerobic metabolism’s contribution becomes relatively more important, supplementing the energy produced aerobically to meet the training’s total energy requirement.
Aerobic Versus Anaerobic Metabolism
When the anaerobic process makes a significant contribution to ATP synthesis, a horse will be unable to sustain exercise as muscle pH will rapidly fall, resulting in the onset of fatigue. If a horse’s capacity to generate energy aerobically is increased, its reliance on anaerobic metabolism to generate power during training at a given intensity will be decreased. Therefore, the onset of stress will be delayed.
Working Capacity of Horse
Maximum work potential is determined by the sum of the aerobic and anaerobic capacities. Therefore, horse training that enhances anaerobic capacity will improve performance in horses working at maximum intensities.
Basic Principle of Aerobic horse Training Methods
There are several basic principles applied to horse training. These are:
- Training will create changes in all body parts’ function, but most importantly, in the musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems.
- The specific system must be stressed in the training process to improve the performance of the horse. These have been described in the overload principle.
- However, it is essential to avoid fatiguing the animal during training.
Changes in Horse By Aerobic Training
The changes produced by exercise are influenced by how often the horse is trained, the training duration, and the training intensity. Exercise-induced changes will be lost if a horse ceases to work, although the maintenance training program will preserve the adaptations.
Blood Circulation in Aerobic Training
Aerobic training increases circulating blood volume and stroke volume, which increases the amount of oxygen transported to the muscle. There is more in the capillary distribution to individual muscle fibers and fiber-cross sectional areas within the power.
Heart rate in Aerobic Horse Training
The metabolic cost of exercise is mostly unaffected by horse training. A horse working at a given submaximal gait has a set requirement for oxygen delivery. A stroke volume increases during training; heart rate will fall. Heart rate provides the best aerobic training intensity indicator, and heart rate changes can monitor aerobic fitness.
2. Anaerobic Training in Horses
Anaerobic training is often the most overlooked aspect of horse training. During this stage, the aim is to increase anaerobic pathways to generate ATP and increase muscle buffering capacity, enabling the horse to delay the fall in intracellular pH, contributing to fatigue.
The point at which anaerobic training should be introduced to the training program is debatable. At least 4-6 weeks of aerobic work appears to be necessary to provide an appropriate level of background fitness. As they become capable, the anaerobic proportion of the total training load is increased. Some horse trainers believe that excessive low-intensity training of racehorses results in a loss of speed. The relationship between the sprint speed of a horse and low-intensity movement has not been reported.
An appropriate training amount to stress the anaerobic system results in post-exercise blood lactate concentration in the range of 4-10 mmol/L. At this exercise intensity, anaerobic metabolism making a significant contribution to energy generation. These resulting metabolic changes cause an increased sprint capacity and an increase in intramuscular buffering capacity, enabling the horse to sustain exercise longer.
During the anaerobic training, the horse can quickly become fatigued. Measuring blood-lactate concentration to monitor workload enables the trainer to avoid fatiguing the horse. Training-related anorexia is generally seen in horses frequently working at an intensity that generates blood lactate concentrations greater than 10-15mmol/L.
The optimum amount of anaerobic exercise in each training session and the optimum frequency of training hours have not been determined. When the training intensity is closely controlled by regular blood lactate analysis, horses can cope with an exercise volume far more than the amount which has traditionally been considered the limit.
3. Methods of Horse Training: Racehorse Training.
The information in the above paragraph of aerobic and anaerobic training is a general guideline to racehorse training. Each phase of training must be balanced between the time required to optimize performance and the cost of keeping a horse training. As a normal rule, a program consisting of 4 weeks medium pace and two weeks of sprint training can be considered a minimum.
The sprint training syllabus includes skills work such as practice starts from stalls. About the four days before the competition, the workload should be lessened to enable the horse to recover intramuscular glycogen stores.
Horses that have attained race fitness do not require intensive training to maintain fitness. Low-intensity exercise with weekly gallops seems to be sufficient. In Standardbreds, which may run at intervals of less than seven days, racing may be the only high-intensity exercise required.
4. Endurance Riding Training
As a general rule, the training session is the key to success in preparing endurance horses. The more work was given to a horse, the greater the performance improvements. Some training periods must be long enough to ensure that the mobilization of fatty acids occurs. Initially, low-intensity exercise should be given to enhance aerobic capacity and encourage bone remodeling. Once the preliminary aerobic exercise is completed, an appropriate training speed is 80-100% of race speed.
A characteristic of exclusive endurance athletes is that lactate does not accumulate in the blood until the intensity approaches generate maximal heart rates. Training intensities that cause lactate can shift the lactate accumulation point closer to the maximum heart rate.
All endurance horses should receive aerobic training. Many endurance horse riders are unwilling to allow their horses to gallop or canter, as they believe this may teach them vices for the race. If the trainer is reluctant to increase exercise speed, beneficial results may be gained by working at lower speeds up hills or inclined treadmills. Treadmills training is a regular feature of many top-class human athletes.
One to two weeks before a competition, the horse should be given one training session where at least half of each race leg’s distance is covered. The greater the distance it covered in this session, the greater the performance benefits. During the week before the event, training should be tapered to ensure that intramuscular glycogen stores are maximum.
5. Dressage Horse Training
Skill training is far more important in dressage horses than fitness exercise. The skill training session to which the dressage horse is subjected should result in adequate fitness development. Dressage is a special type of event and requires specific training to prepare a horse for dressage.
6. Show Jumpers Horse Training
Post-competition blood lactate concentration in showjumpers approaches ten mmol/L, indicating that anaerobic metabolism makes a significant contribution to energy generation. Training sessions are generally limited to 20-30 minutes of jumping or other works.
7. Eventers Horse Training
Horses involved in cross-country competition generate high lactate combinations in the blood. In the steeplechase stages, the riding intensity is similar to that of a racehorse. Therefore eventers should gain from programs designed to increase aerobic capacity. A highly successful horse training program involves 60-90 minutes of conditioning six days per week.
Most of the exercise is given at a raising trot or steady canter, with two to three easy gallops over approximately 1000m. The horses are given several steeplechases sessions at about 800m/minute in the final weeks before the event.
8. Interval Horse Training
Interval training has gained widespread acceptance with Standardbred trainers and is commonly used by human athletes. Interval training aims to increase the volume of work done in an individual training session. Training is provided in bouts, with a recovery period between each episode.
There are five factors to be mentioned in designing an interval training program. These are:
- The intensity and duration of each interval.
- The number of repetitions.
- The rest interval between bouts.
- The type of works during the rest period.
- The frequency of interval training.
The final program depends on the aim of horse training. The anaerobic system is the objective, and intervals are generally conducted at 10% below the race speed. Recovery between the sessions does not need to be complete.
Heart rate monitors are generally used to measure recovery, with a heart rate of about 120 bpm the goal. The distance of each session does not appear to be particularly important. Where enhancement of spirit capacity is the aim of training, the horses must be fully recovered before the hit is commenced. Trotting a horse between training bouts will result in a more rapid fall in blood lactate concentration than walking or cantering.
A flexible interval training program tailored to meet individual requirements can produce good results. However, repeated high-intensity interval training has also caused over-training in racehorses, weight loss, and performance loss.
9. Maintenance Horse Training
Maintenance horse training is also a type of horse training procedure. The training is usually conducted during the rest period of the horse after a competition or heavy work. During this period, you will maintain a minimum riding schedule and regular maintenance diet. The horse will not sit idle and for this training in these rest periods.
10. Effects of Overtraining of Horses
Overtraining can be described as an imbalance between training and recovery. Overtrained animals appear tired and stale. Their performance decreases, and they may lose weight. Short-training overtraining can be corrected by rest for a period of days to weeks. Where the severity of the overtraining is more significant, a recovery period of several months is required.
The effects of overtraining are:
- Overtraining appears to be due to dysfunction in the neuroendocrine system.
- Various hormone ratios, such as cortisol/testosterone, have been used to diagnose human athletes’ conditions.
- There is some evidence that adrenal glands dysfunction in Sweedish Trotters is associated with the overtraining syndrome.
- Changes in carbohydrate metabolism have also been associated with overtraining syndrome in human athletes and may result in chronic alterations to glycogen storage in the muscles.
Final Advice on Methods of Horse Training
As a horse owner or rider, or racer, you must have basic knowledge of different types of horse training methods. In my article, I have discussed the most common ways and types of horse training. I have also highlighted the mechanism and biometrics of the exercise of horses. I think you will benefit from my article.