Your horse's fitness is one of the most important aspects of driving ...
...and following through a fitness plan with your horse can be a real challenge.
What does fitness actually mean?
A horse does not show any signs of distress during work and is able to do the tasks you ask for.
What factors should be monitored and measured?
One of my duties as a vet is to supervise horses during endurance competitions.
There are three physiological factors, which can easily be monitored:
The pulse rate reflects the heartbeat rate and is measured by placing two or three fingers (not the thumb!) of one hand underneath the lower jawbone, where the artery crosses over the bone.
In well trained horses during trotting phases it can go up to 150 - 180 b.p.m. and decrease after a 10 -15 minutes rest to around 40 - 50 b.p.m.
The respiration rate is measured by counting breathing intervals (= one in- and one outbreathing movement) per minute.
The body temperature, is usually measured rectally with a thermometer. (Caveat: Be aware of being kicked!)
The shorter the time it takes for the horse's pulse and respiration rate to fall from the high rates achieved when working hard to the rates applying at rest, the better trained is the horse.
The horse's basic food is grass, but it won't become really "sporty" on a sole grass diet.
Weight control and an individually adjusted diet are crucial.
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