Is Your Horse FIT?
Above are graphs of 2 horses each breezing 4F in :50 – the one on the left wins races, the one on the right is soon injured and has no business working fast, much less racing at this point. Red line is heart rate, blue line is gallop speed – the closer the relationship between these 2 lines, the fitter your horse.
Here we have 2 horses each galloping 1.5 miles at approximately a 2:20 min/mile pace. The horse on the left spends nearly 5 minutes in sub-maximal heart rate zones that ensure he is developing the stamina necessary to win races. The horse on the right spends less than 50sec in these all important zones of intensity. Don’t guess what your horse needs to improve, know it specifically.
The MAXIMAL zone (90-100% of max HR)
This zone is exclusively for speed work, as neuromuscular coordination at race paces is best learned at this intensity. Be very cautious of time spent in this area.
The THRESHOLD zone (80-90% of max HR)
This is the pace at which the horse is able to use lactic acid for energy, which delays the onset of fatigue during a race. Targeting gallops towards this zone will improve cruising speed in a race.
The AEROBIC zone (70-80% of max HR)
This intensity best develops lung function and improves the horse’s ability to use oxygen to fuel movement. Exercise at this pace actually allows for the creation of new blood capillaries which aid in performance.
The RECOVERY zone (60-70% of max HR)
Here is the optimal pace to train in which any lactic acid is flushed away, and the recovery processes are enhanced. Best used after a breeze for 60-90 seconds before exiting the track.
Why is heart rate vs gallop speed so important?
The above flow chart summarizes everything quite nicely. Heart rate by itself means absolutely nothing. Those of you who looked at HR before without the presence of GPS data are exactly correct to claim it is of no use to you. But, with modern day GPS so small that it can be carried onboard an exercising horse – we can now draw parallels between the amount of work being done (speed) and the effort of the horse involved (heart rate).
In its most basic form, every time the heart beats it fuels a certain distance of travel. The further the better. 6 feet per beat is terrible, but 14 feet per beat is elite.
You can see above the myriad of factors that influence heart rate during exercise. Bloodstock agents that hype heart size or biomechanical efficiency are only measuring one piece of a very complex puzzle, the true magic numbers come when all these variables are collected into one number – V200.