Researchers Review Three-Day Eventing Horse Fitness Parameters

Researchers said the data they collected will help them estimate how effective training and conditioning programs are in preparing three-day event horses for competition.
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Researchers said the data they collected will help them estimate how effective training and conditioning programs are in preparing three-day event horses for competition. | Photo: Erica Larson/The Horse

Conditioning horses for eventing’s cross-country phase is critical, especially for upper-level athletes. That’s why French researchers recently developed a way to look at horses’ individual fitness levels by monitoring heart rate and blood lactate levels during exercise. They recently investigated a broad range of eventing horses to determine how those measures changed between training and competition and across difficulty levels (in this study, the 1* to 4* levels).

They found that, in training, the higher the difficulty level, the lower the heart rates and lactate readings. However, in competition, the results were the opposite. As difficulty increased from 1* to 4*, so did heart rates and lactate readings, said Didier Serteyn, PhD, of the University of Liège, in Belgium, during a presentation at the 2017 French Equine Research Day.

“This study describes the intensity of the efforts the horses produced during training and competition and showed that different levels of exercise intensity induced varying changes in heart rate and blood lactate values,” he said. The research was part of Katharina Kirsch’s PhD thesis; she studies at the University of Liège and serves as a German Olympic Committee for Equestrian Sports veterinarian

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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