Maintain my horse’s cardio with iSPORT

Maintain my horse’s cardio with iSPORT

September 17, 2021 5 By Daphne Maujean

Cardio is important, but what is it? In this article, learn more about your horse‘s cardio-vascular system and why it is important to maintain it. In addition, discover how the iSPORT application can help you in this process.

The cardio-vascular system of the horse

The horse’s cardio-vascular system is similar to other mammals. By distributing blood to the organs, it allows to bring oxygen and nutrients necessary for the functioning of the body and to eliminate byproducts. 

Overall, the horse’s heart functions like the Human’s one. It acts as a pump to allow for blood circulation. The blood entering the heart is poor in oxygen, which was previously given to the muscles, and rich in CO2, which corresponds to the waste rejected by the body.

The lungs then play the crucial role of « exchanger ». The oxygen-poor blood is sent to the pulmonary trunk. By breathing in, the lungs re-oxygenate the blood, which will pass through the heart again in order to be re-distributed in the body.

However, the horse’s heart possesses some particularities that are important to remember…

The size

The size of the horse’s heart is a crucial determinant of its future sporting abilities. It’s considered that it can reach up to 35cm in length for a diameter of approximatively 20cm.

horse heart diameter

In comparison with humans, the horse’s heart is thus above 3 times longes, for a diameter almost 2.3 times wider.

The weight

Like size, the heart weigh varies according to different characteristics: the breed, age, or even the physical shape.

On average, the horse’s heart weights between 3 and 5kg. It represents 0.6 to 0.9% of its total body mass. In comparison, the heart of an adult human weighs between 280 and 300 grams, which is equivalent to about 0,4% of its body mass.

horse heart weight

The heart rate

The horse’s heart is much more efficient that the Human’s one. This is partially what gives it such physical abilities.

At rest, for example, its heart rate is significantly lower: between 25 and 40 BPM, whereas the human’s is between 60 and 80 BPM.

horse heart rate norm exception

Indeed, the larger an animal is, the lower its maximum heart rate is considered to be. It is, however, not the case for the horse since, in activity, its maximum heart rate is much higher than the Human’s one: up to 240 BPM during very intense efforts. 

The blood flow

The blood flow is the volume of blood pumped by the heart in a given time, measured in liters per minute. It is not to be mixed up with the stroke volume, given in milliliters, which is the quantity of blood pumped per beat.

On average, the blood volume of a horse represents 9% of its weight. That is, for example, about 45 liters of blood for a 500kg horse.

During an effort, the blood flow will increase in conjunction with the heart rate. The size of the heart is therefore a major characteristic of the horse’s blood flow and, consequently, of its physical performances.

At rest, the blood flow for an average-sized horse is considered to be between 25 and 40 L/min. It can then rise up to 400 L/min during very intense efforts for example. It means that, during exercise, the horse is able to multiply its blood flow up to 12 times compared to resting. In comparison, the Human’s blood flow can only be multiplied up to 7 times between resting and exercising.

horse considerable cardiac reserve

The cardio-vascular system, thanks to its extraordinary capacities, thus plays an important role regarding the physical performances of the horse.

Maintain my horse's cardio... why and how?

Heart is a muscle; it therefore needs to be trained. It is also by working on your horse’s cardio that you will improve its general physical condition and develop its resistance to effort.

As for humans, a horse with under-developed cardiac abilities can be exposed to various pathologies: heart murmur, arrhythmia, thrombosis or even cardiomyopathy for example. The same goes for an under-trained horse who’s asked to perform too much efforts.

Cardio data are very important indicators in many sports, and horse-riding is no exception. These data will allow you to know if your horse is at ease with the efforts you ask of him, if its recovery is optimal, etc. These data, if abnormal, will also help you to detect potential health problems.

The iPULSE girth, whose electrodes monitor your horse’s heart rate, gives you the possibility to control your horse’s cardio with near-medical precision.

Cardio monitoring also allows you to confirm that your horse is progressing. These progresses will be visible through:

A lower cardiac rhythm at rest;

A heart rate as low as possible to achieve the same effort;

A better recovery after effort.

As with any other athletes, a horse’s physical and cardiac abilities are never permanently acquired. It is therefore necessary to maintain your horse’s cardio on a regular basis in order for him to keep (and continue developing) its capacities.

It can be done through interval training, specific protocols to be followed-up over several weeks, or even outdoor hacking. The gait, time spent and repetition of the training sessions will depend on what you are looking to improve.

Walking outdoor hack

Ideal for working on your horse’s deep muscles and endurance. Outdoor work also helps you keep your horse’s mentally fit.

During these trainings, you must ask for an active walk from your horse. It must push on its hind legs to engage them under its mass, put its backline in tension and stimulate its abdominal muscles.

For an average of one hour minimum, these outdoor hacks will improve your horse’s abilities to maintain a long effort with a low heart rate.

Trotting outdoor hack

Trotting outdoor is a very good exercise to work on a horse’s breathing and cadence, and to develop its musculature.

For a proper execution of this exercise, you must gradually increase the trotting periods and alternate with shorter walking periods. This will allow you to improve the cardio variations of your horse as well as its median heart rate.

Trotting sessions must not exceed 1 hour, to avoid risks of overtraining your horse, and must be followed by a time of active recovery at walk.

Galloping outdoor hack

Like trotting, galloping outdoor is a great exercise to maintain your horse’s breathing, the regularity of its strides, and its muscular development.

Soliciting the horse in a high cardiac rhythm, galloping outdoor is a very good way to work on effort intensity, similar to that of a jumping course for example.

You must start galloping sessions in a progressive way, by integrating trotting and/or walking periods. More demanding for the body, in particular at the cardiac level, it is essential to pay attention to your horse throughout the whole process.

Interval training

Altogether, interval training is an effective exercise, with many benefits for your horse:

Develop the cardiac muscle to improve the horse’s heart rate, at rest and during training.

Enrich the blood with red blood celles to facilitate oxygen supply to the whole body through training.

Strengthen the general functioning of the muscular system.

Improve the recovery after an effort, regardless of the intensity.

iSPORT application: cardio protocols

In the iSPORT app, you can of course monitor several indicators, including your horse’s heart rate (both at rest and during training) and its recovery time.

horse recovery time indication iSPORT app cwd

In addition to these data, you can access training protocols that will allow you to work, among other things, on your horse’s cardio.

With 3 different intensities, there will always be a protocol to suit your horse’s training level:

Beginner

« Returning to work » program

beginner cardio protocol isport app cwd

Advanced

« Competition » program

competition cardio protocol isport app cwd

Expert

« Perfecting » program

expert cardio protocol app isport cwd

The advantages of these protocols?

They are audio-guided. No need to start a timer at each phase of the training or to look at you watch every 2 minutes. Let your phone guide you through each step of the protocol.

You can compare them. To measure progress, there is nothing more important than comparison. With the iSPORT app, all your trainings are saved and classified. It allows you to compare two similar trainings in order to analyze your horse’s evolution over short, mid or long-term.

They offer a complete report. Just like a training with the iPULSE girth or the iJUMP INSIDE saddle, you have access to a report of your protocol training. With information on heart rate, gait breakdown, and effort intensity, you have all the tools you need to monitor your horse’s physical condition and health.

Maintain your horse’s cardio is thus important, as it is a way to improve its overall capacities and health.

However, it is only a part of the work needed to ensure your horse’s good physical condition. It is important to keep in mind that suppleness and muscular development are also essential characteristics.