Training smarter versus training more
As a rider we want our horse to get better and better, no matter which discipline we are active in. Many are very fanatic and train their horse too much. Good fitness in your horse however, doesn’t come from training much, but from training smartly. This way you build up stronger muscles in your horse by training less!
Supercompensation and overreaching
On the vertical axis is the level of fitness. The higher the line gets, the better. Every arrow indicates a training, and the black horizontal line is the starting level.
How do you actually develop muscles? When you’re training a horse, you always ask a little more from him than his body is used to. This is called overreaching. It is normal that the muscles suffer some light “damage” because of that. It is very important to give the muscles time to recover afterwards, so they can adapt to the new effort. You can see this in the image on the right. This is what the graphs mean:
By planning your training at the right time, your horse will get better and better.
If you start training too soon, the muscles won’t have recovered enough and your horse will get worse.
If you wait too long, it will go down to the starting level and your horse will not improve.
During the recovery period the muscle fitness goes beyond the starting level. This is called supercompensation. It makes the horse stronger.
The optimal recovery period depends on the intensity of the training and the training level of your horse. The more intense the training, the longer it takes to recover. On average this is two to three days. So if you wait more than three days, your horse will fall back to his original fitness level and will not get stronger.
Burnout by overtraining
In training, especially one where overreaching occurs, stress hormones are released. This is normal and necessary for a good training. Because of stress hormones the senses become sharper and the body starts to put more effort into recovery.
However, frequent and prolonged exposure to these stress hormones, for example by training too hard too often, has the opposite effect. The body does not have the time to recover. A similar training will cause even more stress next time. At a certain moment the stress hormones are exhausted and the body will not recover at all, not even with a lot of rest. In other areas it will get worse, too. For example, the horse may lose a lot of weight, even though it gets enough food. Also, wounds will barely heal. Research has shown that horses, just like humans, can get burnout.
For the best development of your horse, resting days are almost as important as the training itself. This does not mean that your horse cannot be ridden on these days. However, you have to take into consideration that the muscles are still recovering from the more demanding training. By getting him to exercise calmly and without stress, you stimulate the blood circulation, making the muscles recover faster. The chance that your horse develops muscular soreness, becomes a lot smaller this way.
You can choose not to ride after one of those more intensive trainings. Because it’s good for your horse to keep moving, you can also do some groundwork with him. He doesn’t have to carry a rider, but can still use his muscles.
Training with your IPOS sensors
With your IPOS Rein Sensors you can measure the intensity of your training. For this they use the time you’ve ridden in every gait. Because the rein sensors are self-learning, they help you decide whether you’re training too heavily or too lightly. The system defines your most demanding training as 100% and compares every next training with it. The system also keeps track of what you’re doing on resting days and when overreaching occurs. With the IPOS system you can set up a smart training schedule, monitor it, and adapt 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
(Dutch) E. de Graaf-Roelfsema, “Burn-out bij paarden: feit of fabel?”
(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