Train with intensity and fitness level

Do you ever wonder why your horse developed no more muscles? You train and you train and yet your horse keeps poorly developed muscles. Did you know that you also can train a horse too much? So much that he actually loses muscles? In this blog you learn how you can ensure that this does not happen. The IPOS app can help you with this.


· The training load indicates how heavy a training was (calculated by the IPOS app).

· Fitness level is the average training load over 21 days. This calculates the IPOS app for you.

· Increase your horse's fitness level by gradually increasing the training load per week (progressive loading)

· The ratio between the training load of a workout and the fitness of your horse determines how many rest days the body needs (supercompensation). When training at the wrong time (in phase 2 or after phase 4), the muscle power will deteriorate

The IPOS app calculates the load of training

The load of a training is in short a value indicating how heavy a training was for your horse. If you know the load of one training (and your fitness level) you can estimate how intense the training was for your horses and determine how many days your horse needs rest. The IPOS app helps you with that by calculating the intensity for you.

The IPOS app uses a formula based on heart rate research to calculate the intensity of each training based on the number of minutes that your horse spends per gait. Not every gait is equally intensive so, every gait ways different into the overall training load.

Heart rate measurements have been used for years to map the condition of a horse. To use a heart rate monitor, you need a lot of knowledge and this is not for everyone. However, this knowledge has been useful in calculating the load of the training for horses. In this way, we know from the literature that the heart beats on average per gait are as follows:

1. Rest: 28 tot 40

2. Walk: 70 to 90

3. Trot: 120 to 140

4. Canter: 170 to 190

5. Galop: Max 240

You can imagine the higher the heart rate of the horse, the higher the intensity of the training. When the strain on the horse is too high you are more likely to have injuries but, when it is too low, your horse will not improve fitness and muscle size.

“Fitness” is the average load over 21 days of training

When you have trained for 21 days with the IPOS app, you can calculate your fitness level by averaging all the trainings you have done over the past 21 days. When you do not train, the app takes an intensity of 0 in the calculation. Calculating a fitness level is most reliable if you just train as you always do.


It is important that when you go on competition the strain during the tests does not exceed your fitness level. So you prevent your horse from getting tired during a test. Lets assume the fitness level of your horse is 50. You decide to train with the IPOS app and also turn the app on during a competition. You found that the load on a competition was actually 80! While your fitness level is 50. So it was really logical that your horse should be tired after but also during a competition, it is too heavy for him! Now you know this you can start building up your training slowly until you have a fitness level of 80, so your horse can do his test without fatigue.

Increase your fitness level by progressive loading

You can increase your horse's fitness level step by step adding a bit more load every week. We have two difficult terms which are important to understand:

1. Progressive loading: means you gradually intensifies your training, so you prevent getting over trained and injured.

2. Super compensation: helps you to define the moment the body recovers above its original fitness level, this is the perfect moment for a next workout.

Super compensation

Super compensation consists of 4 phases: Phase 1: Where the line starts is your training, your horse gets tired. This stage takes about 1 hour (as long as you are training). During a training, muscles become slightly damaged. Phase 2: After the training the body will recover. This phase takes 24 to 48 hours (depending on the intensity of your training), counted from the end of your training. Phase 3: Here you find the actual super compensation, the muscles have grown and are stronger than before the training. This is the ideal time for a next training. This phase lasts 36 to 72 hours, counting from your last workout. Phase 4: If you wait too long with the next training , the fitness level will gradually decrease and you will not be able to build up your training. This phase takes 3 to 7 days, counting from your training. This is described for humans, but can also be applied to horses. If you train at the right moment you will find out that your horse is getting fitter, he has more energy in the trainings and is more cheerful in the field or stable.

On the right you can see how this upward line is schematically drawn. Here you see what happens when you train on time (phase 3), there is a rising line (and thus a horse with a nice muscular neck and buttocks developing). There is also a picture of what happens when you train too early (phase 2), you see a descending line (characteristics of which are: poorly muscled in neck and buttocks). Thus, the strength of your horse will actually decrease, as he rises at the rising line. When your horse gets minor injuries after minor injuries, this can be a sign of overtraining. If this is so you'll probably be too fast again to train intensively.

Progressive loading

Progressive loading means to build up your training gradually over time, every second week you can increase either frequency, duration or intensity. Not these 3 at once. In phase 3 (see figure 1. supercompensation) is a small peak, this is the most convenient time to start training again. At this point you can also make your training a bit more intense (progressive loading). However, you have to remember that you only need to weigh up your training one time per week.

It takes years to build up Fitness to professional level

A professionals horse can train longer and more frequently because the horses are accustomed to it. At the start of the training of these horses they also could not. After several years of training on the right loading at the right time the professional has slowly building up the training intensity (using progressive loading) so that these horses can now train for an hour (or perhaps more) a day. These horses also have to deliver very intense performance on competitions and sometimes 3 consecutive days. But even for them , the strain of these competitions is preferably not above their fitness level. So that the horses can perform the task with ease.

Sport horse versus riding school horse

Riding school horses are often underappreciated, there is said that the riding lessons are not so heavy at all. People often do not realize that these horses are working 2 to 3 times a day for an hour. We wanted to test the difference with the app. We compared the intensity of work load of a riding school horse with a that of a sport horse, both used the IPOS app while training/riding lessons.

As you can see in the graphs below, the riding school horse works way more. So his calculated Fitness level (the average of 21 days) is also higher (horizontal line) compared to the average sport horse. The vertical bars represent the load of the training per day. The sport horse has 1 training per day, while a riding school horse has to do 2 or 3 lessons per day. If we zoom in at the fitness levels, the fitness level of a sport horse will gradually increase by means of progressive loading of the horse. The fitness level of a riding horse will remain approximately the same, because the riding school horse are already at high level to perform the work on a daily basis.


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