Training smarter versus training more
As a rider, we want our horse to continually improve, no matter which discipline we are active in. Some riders are fanatic and can train their horse too much. Good fitness in your horse however, doesn’t come from training a lot, but from training smartly. This means that you build up stronger muscles in your horse by training less.
Supercompensation and overreaching
The vertical axis of the graph shows the horse’s level of fitness. The higher this line gets, the better. Every arrow indicates a training. The black horizontal line on the graph represents the starting level.
How do you actually develop a horse’s muscles? When you are training the horse, you can ask a little more from it than it’s body is used to. This is called ‘overreaching’. It is normal that the muscles can suffer some light ‘damage’ when this is practiced. In this case, it is very important to give the muscles time to recover afterwards, so that they can adapt to the new effort. You can see this in the image on the right.
The graphs show the following:
a. By planning training at the right time, the horse’s fitness will get better and better.
b. If you start training too soon, the muscles won’t have recovered enough and the horse’s fitness will get worse.
c. If you wait too long, fitness returns to the starting level and does not improve.
During the recovery period, muscle fitness goes beyond the starting level. This is called supercompensation. It makes the horse stronger.
The optimal recovery period depends upon the intensity of the training and the training level of the horse. The more intense the training, the longer it takes to recover. On average, this requires two to three days. More than three days, and the horse will fall back to its original fitness level and will not get stronger.
Burnout through overtraining
Stress hormones are released In training, especially when it involves overreaching. This is normal, and is necessary for a good training. With stress hormones, the senses become sharper, and the body reacts with more effort put into recovery.
However, frequent and prolonged exposure to these stress hormones, for example, by training too hard, too often, has the opposite effect. The horse’s body does not have enough time to recover. A similar training will cause even more stress next time. At a certain moment, the stress hormones become exhausted, and the body cannot recover at all, not even with a lot of rest. Other areas can deteriorate too. For example, the horse may lose a lot of weight, even though it eats enough food. And wounds may barely heal. Research has shown that horses, just like humans, can get burnout.
For the best development of the horse, rest days are almost as important as the training itself. This does not mean that the horse cannot be ridden on these days, but consideration is required for the fact that the muscles are still recovering from the more demanding training. By exercising the horse calmly and without stress, the blood circulation is stimulated, which encourages the muscles to recover faster. In this way, the chance that the horse develops muscular soreness is reduced.
After a more intensive set of trainings, the trainer may choose not to ride, but as it is good for the horse to keep moving, he or she may opt for some groundwork. This means the horse is still using its muscles, without carrying a rider.
Training with your Ipos Technology Rein Sensors
With Ipos Technology Rein Sensors, the intensity of training can be measured. The intensity is assessed through measurement of the time ridden in each gait. As the Rein Sensors ‘teach themselves’, they can help riders determine if training is too heavy or too light. The system defines the most demanding training as 100% and compares every following training with this. The system also keeps track of activity on resting days and when overreaching occurs. With the Ipos Technology system, you can set up a smart training schedule, monitor it, and adapt it, where necessary.
E. van Breda, Equine Sports Science, “General conditioning training for the young horse.”
C. Golland, D.I. Evans, C.M. McGowan, D.R. Hodgson & R.J. Rose, “The Effects of Overtraining on Blood Volumes in Standardbred Racehorses.” 2003.
Janek Vluggen DO, MRO, EDO
(In Dutch) E. de Graaf-Roelfsema, “Burn-out bij paarden: feit of fabel?”
(In Dutch) Mens en Gezondheid, “Sporten met spierpijn: goed of slecht?”, 2016 http://mens-en-gezondheid.infonu.nl/aandoeningen/125088-sporten-met-spierpijn-goed-of-slecht.html