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From: April Lee [mailto:email@example.com] wrote:
So, since the rider must take charge in these instances, how can I (as the
rider) tell when my horse is working too hard? Is audible panting a sign of
too much exertion?
More accurately, it is a sign of the horse trying to cool himself. This in & of itself is NOT a bad thing. The horse is moving large volumes of air over very vascular areas. He's using his "radiator".
What about lowering his head even at a trot?
This seems to occur in young horses or those just starting to come into condition. My theory is that they are stretching out back muscles that are becoming fatigued.
heart rate has something to do with it, too, but short of owning a heart
rate monitor, it's hard to tell that from the back of a horse.
The <recovery> can be a useful indicator. How long does it take the horse to recover to a baseline, or a set parameter (usually between 60 and 64 beats per minute). You can bring along a stethoscope and listen when you dismount, or can feel their side for a "thrum" of the heart beat, or find a pulse (leg, under jaw).
ride bareback...how on EARTH would I keep a heart rate monitor on???? ;) )
Actually, there are HRM made to go on an elastic band around their heart girth. My experience has been that these don't pick up as well as electrodes under the saddle & girth when the horse is moving. It must work, though. I see people out there using them!
Anyway, any guidelines of when the horse is being worked too hard?
Cardiovascular fitness comes along VERY quickly. Bones & tendons take years to develop. Look for swelling in his legs, new splints, slightly off after a ride.
A good rule of thumb is to have two "normal" rides a week at your normal level of conditioning, then one "stressor" ride where you add either distance OR speed. (Not necessarily both.) When the horse is doing well with the "stressor" ride, it becomes the norm & you move it up another notch.
Another thing to watch is his attitude and weight. If he runs away when you come to see him (and he usually comes up to you), he's getting sour on all this training. It may be time to back off or do something totally different.
Also, as some horses get into condition, they seem to loose their appetite. You give them food which they pick at and leave behind! My old mare was like that. If we backed off her schedule and kept her to 3 or 4 feedings a day, she'd keep her weight up. If she was "overworked", she wouldn't eat, even if you hand fed her. OTOH, my current gelding is a walking vacuum cleaner. We could work him to death and he'd still eat and stay fat.
I hope that this helps some. I know other folks on RideCamp will also have some great ideas. I'm looking forward to reading them to see what I missed!
Blue Wolf Ranch
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