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Train with Intensity and Fitness Level

Do you ever wonder why your horse’s muscle development stops at a certain point? You train and train, and yet your horse may have poorly developed muscles. Did you know that you also can train a horse too much? So much so, that the horse can actually lose muscle mass? In this blog, you can find out how you can ensure that this does not happen. Ipos Technology’s Training App can help you with this.


Summary:

· Training Load indicates how heavy a training was (calculated by Ipos Technology’s Training App).

· Fitness level is assessed from the average Training Load, as measured over 21 days. The Ipos Training App calculates this 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 horse needs (supercompensation). When training at the wrong time (in Phase 2, or after Phase 4), the horse’s muscle power will deteriorate.

Ipos Technology’s Training App calculates the Training Load.

Training Load is, in brief, a value that indicates how heavy a training was for your horse. If you know the load of one training (and your horse’s fitness level), you can estimate how intense the training was for your horse and determine how many days your horse needs rest. Ipos Technology’s Training App helps by calculating the intensity of the training for you.

The Ipos Training App uses a formula that is derived from heart-rate research to calculate the intensity of each training. It is based on the number of minutes that your horse spends per gait. Not every gait is equally intensive, so every gait ‘weighs’ differently into the overall Training Load.


Heart-rate measurements have been used for many years to monitor the condition of a horse. To fully use a heart-rate monitor effectively, you need a lot of knowledge, and this is not for everyone. However, this knowledge has been useful in calculating the Training Load 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 beats per minute.

2. Walk: 70 to 90 beats per minute.

3. Trot: 120 to 140 beats per minute.

4. Canter: 170 to 190 beats per minute.

5. Gallop: Max 240 beats per minute.


As 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, the horse is more likely to incur injuries but, when it is too low, the 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 Technology Training App, you can calculate your horse’s fitness level by averaging all the trainings you have done over the past 21 days. When you do not train, the App inserts an intensity of 0 in the calculation. Calculating a fitness level is most reliable if you just train as you always do.

Example:

It is important that when you are competing, the strain during the tests does not exceed your fitness level. So, you prevent your horse from getting tired during a test. Let’s assume that the fitness level of your horse is 50. You decide to train with the Ipos Training App and also use the App during a competition. You found that the Training Load of the competition was actually 80! While your fitness level is 50. So it is logical that your horse becomes tired not only after the competition, but during it as well. The event is too heavy for the horse, Now you know this, you can start building up your training more progressively, until you have a fitness level of 80, so your horse can complete the competition without fatigue.

Increase your horse’s fitness level through progressive loading

You can increase your horse's fitness level step-by-step by adding a bit more load every week.

There are two terms that are important to understand:

1. Progressive loading: means you gradually intensify your training, so you avoid over training and associated injuries.

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

Super compensation

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.




Super compensation consists of four phases:

Phase 1: Where the line starts is your training. During this training, your horse gets tired and the muscles become slightly damaged. This stage takes about one hour.

Phase 2: After the training, the body will recover. This phase takes approximately 24 to 48 hours (depending upon the intensity of your training). It is 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 subsequent training. This phase lasts 36 to 72 hours, counted 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 three to seven days, counted from your training. This is described for humans, but can also be applied to horses. If you train at the right moment, you will discover that your horse is getting fitter, it will have more energy in the training, and will be more cheerful in the field or stable.

The right shows this upward line schematically. This shows what happens when you train at the right time (Phase 3). There is a rising line (this is a horse with a nice muscular neck and backside developing). The graphs also show what happens if you train too early (Phase 2). The result is a descending line (with characteristic poorly muscled in neck and backside). Thus, the strength of your horse will actually decrease, as the rising line increases. If your horse repeatedly gets minor injuries, this can be a sign of overtraining. You may be trying to train intensively too early.

Progressive loading

Progressive loading refers to building up your training gradually over time. Every fortnight, you can increase either frequency, duration or intensity. However, it is important not to increase these three all at once. In Phase 3 (see Figure 1. supercompensation), there 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, it should be remembered that your training only needs to be assessed once a week.

It takes years to build up fitness to a professional level

A horse used professionally can train longer and more frequently, because they are accustomed to it. When these horses started their training of course, they also could not achieve the same training regimes. After several years of training at the right loading, applied at the right time, the professional trainer has slowly built up the horse’s training intensity (using progressive loading), so that the horse can now train for an hour (or perhaps more) a day. These horses also have to deliver very intense performance at competitions, and sometimes over three consecutive days. However, even for them, the strain of these competitions is preferably not above their fitness level, so that horses competed professionally can perform the tasks asked of them during the actual competition with comparative ease.

Sport horse versus riding school horse

Riding school horses are often underappreciated. Some people assume that riding lessons are not heavy for a riding school horse without realizing that these horses often have to work two to three times a day for an hour at each time. We wanted to test the difference in intensity of work load between a riding school horse with a that of a sport horse using Ipos Technology’s Training App while training or participating in riding lessons.

As you can see in the graphs below, the riding school horse works far more. So this horse’s 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 one training per day, while a riding school horse is required to complete two or three lessons per day. If we zoom in on 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 has already reached a high enough level to perform the work on a daily basis.


References:

· Bompa, T. O., & Buzzichelli, C. (2018). Periodization-6th Edition: Theory and Methodology of Training. Melloy: Human Kinetics. Pp. 12-19.

· Brezhnev, Yu. V., Zaitsev, A. A., & Sazonov, S. V. (2011). “To the analytical theory of the supercompensation phenomenon.” Biophysics, 56(2), 298–303. https://doi.org/10.1134/S0006350911020072

· Clayton, H.M. (1991). “Conditioning sport horses.” Mason, USA: Sport Horse Publications.

· Damas, F., Libardi, C. A., & Ugrinowitsch, C. (2018, 1 maart). “The development of skeletal muscle hypertrophy through resistance training: the role of muscle damage and muscle protein.” Geraadpleegd 27 juni 2019, van https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00421-017-3792-9

· Equine Support International (2017 maart). “Improve your horse: Can less training mean more?” HQ, (120). Geraadpleegd van https://www.equinesupportinternational.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Dutch-professionals-1-Carolien-Munsters.pdf

· Kentucky Equine Research. (2017, 28 December). “From the Heart.” Geraadpleegd 27 juni 2019, van https://ker.com/equinews/from-the-heart/

· Kraemer, W.J., Ratamess, N.A. & French, D.N. Curr Sports Med Rep (2002) 1: 165. https://doi-org.has.idm.oclc.org/10.1007/s11932-002-0017-7

· Munsters, C. (2013). “How challenging is a riding horse’s life? Field studies on workload, fitness and welfare.” Veghel: Druko drukkerij B.V.

· van Dam, K. G. (2006). “Training Induced Adaptations in Horse Skeletal Muscle.” datawyse, universitaire Pers Maastricht. Pp. 3.


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