Scientists Monitor Jumpers’ Heart Rates During Competition

Researchers tested a technique to log heart rate and speed data from each horse in an attempt to monitor, step-by-step, the horse’s physical response to jumping during training, competition, and recovery.
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A good understanding of heart rate dynamics during exercise is crucial in evaluating physical effort intensity and, consequently, horse fitness, Piccione said. | Photo: iStock
During a show jumping competition, a horse’s heart rate can be all over place … literally. Thanks to a new study using both heart rate monitoring and GPS technology, researchers in Italy have gotten a better look at how jumping horses’ heart rates change—and when.

“The simultaneous logging of heart rate and speed from each horse proved to be a reliable and powerful technique for field testing that can help in monitoring, step-by-step, the horse’s response to the jumping effort during both training and competition,” said Giuseppe Piccione, PhD, of the University of Messina Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.

“This could ensure that horses receive a suitable training load for their ability and potentially minimize the risk of injury,” he said. “Matching up horses of similar ability or fitness may allow for a more balanced training approach. It could also help eliminate training sessions that fail to provide sufficient training stimulus. Moreover, this approach might allow us to quantify objectively how a horse is coping with its training exercises or the emotional stress of a competition and to assess the degree of compliance of the horse that will in turn contribute to improving animal welfare and athletic performance.”

In their study, Piccione and his fellow researchers fitted six mares with heart-monitoring systems and GPS units that they wore during warm-up and competition in an event held in Sicily

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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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