I was asked this question when I bought my horse and was planning on hunting it 3 months after settling him into his new home.
“How are you going to get him fit?” ….. How would I get a human fit I thought. I would keep a training diary and write a regime, covering all the areas of fitness – increased endurance, increased strength, increased core work/ flexibility/ agility. I would use the heart rate as a gauge as to how fit the animal was and in what zones I was working him. On looking into this I realised horses and humans are animals and whilst having the obvious differences they are essential muscle, fat, bones, organs and water. They need the same dietary requirements of protein, fats and carbohydrates for the same things – carbs for energy, protein/ amino acids to build muscle, water to hydrate and keep the cells and lubricated and the body juices flowing. Food sources are different obviously, we need to eat meat to get our best source of protein (although it is debatable that we possibly eat too much meat). But we can learn a lot about ourselves from our furry neighbours and we can translate on to them a lot as well. Too much starch/sugar makes us both gain weight, but can in the process make us all “fizzy”or over excited. Hyperactive children most of the time could be sorted out with diet – more vegetables and less processed food. It is very real with a horse – because they can be out of control when over excited.
So on the exercise – how do I know how puffed he is – the perceived rate of exertion with humans is about talking to the client and seeing how fatigued they are. I can look at his demeanour or how much puffing he is doing, but to really know I need a Heart Rate monitor, then I can see when he is getting anxious, when he is tired, what he looks like when he is concerned – I can learn my horse much quicker.
So I spoke to Polar, we use their equipment in the gym. They have two different types of monitor, a belt like us – but this is actually quite hard to use with a girth and saddle or even a lunge roller. So they have devised a system with just sensors which you poke under the girth, which is also tricky because of the wires. The belt is cleaner, but it bridges away from the rib cage which is not round but kind of rectangular at the underneath. Anyway I have definitely learnt a bit from using the equipment so far and can now make my training more meaningful and more specific, the biggest thing i learnt was the flight and fight instinct of these animals – one can be walking along and all of a sudden the HR shoots up – he is in flight m
ode and ready to run from the lion!! I think our inter
retation can be interesting between a horse being excited and loving something like careering around with its friends and in fact a horse being terrified – they run when running away in a herd.
So when the Heart rate was graphed it was fascinating there were huge spikes. Anyway the point was that there are despite what people in each field would like to believe incredible similarities training a horse to training a human, in dietary requirements, not in dietary source – being that we are carnivores and horses are not, but also in exercise requirements and not in the “how” – that took some thinking – but in the need to engage the core and lift the abs and use the glutes.
“Strengthening from the core … a study has shown that an unmounted rider core fitness program can improve rider symmetry and equine welfare.”
Finally a proper study shows the importance of posture and rider core fitness work on the ground is important to improve riding posture and the posture and wellbeing of the horse. Something I have bee saying for months. How sitting up straight is going to help your horses performance and ability to carry himself proper. Read more in the “Horse and Hounds” magazine, page 8, 29th Oct 2015.
“In every exercise if you don’t start from a good postural position you won’t achieve optimum strength, you may use the wrong muscles and eventually something in your body will give” …
The Sunday Times on 1st Nov 2015 endorses the necessity to have correct posture before getting in to an exercise regime and in order to correct injury and rehab in a better more productive way.
It is everywhere – the recent Horse and Hound has an article saying the same thing reinforcing many of my comments on the Biospheric Performance Equestrian page about our posture and how it effects our horses back and posture too.
In brief if you can’t read this article it says there is little point in training without looking at posture and doing a proper postural assessment because you firstly won’t achieve the results you desire and second eventually you will hurt yourself.
Donna came to work with me about 2 years ago initially, but then life got a bit on top of her and she had a break for about 6 months. She came back to me in Jan 2015. Hear her incredible story in just 10 months how she has changed her life….
Swimming Lake Llangorse. In her words – Jess’s story.
“As for the swim, well it was really weedy and I just wasn’t used to that and at the beginning I was really frightened.
This was one historic lake, not only is there a Crannog there, but the lake was famed in Welsh folk lore and has an Afanc (lake monster) as well as being a site of special scientific interest and there are many giant pike living in that lake (a cheerful thought when swimming)
There were four marker buoys and the course was rectangular so you went up the long side of the rectangle first swam along the short side and then another long side
The first side of the rectangle was hell. But then by the time I got to the second long side I was getting used to the conditions and was calming down. Visibility was tough so both my buddy and I lost a bit of time with that.
Thanks to all my work with you my head had now got into the right place, I knew it would be a challenge but I knew I could do it and by that time I just thought forget time, forget everyone else I am just going to enjoy being in this special lake in this special place – the weather was spectacularly gorgeous by the way. So I pushed on round, I got cramp loads and pushed on through that and slogged my way though the full 3km and when I got my time it was just under 2 hours like 1 hour 57 and a half which is not bad because I did 3k in the pool in 1 hour 49 and it was much harder and much further in the lake. I am pleased with it overall and all the work I’ve done with you I think made a big difference to me both in getting head together but also not going bonkers the day before and coping with the cramp by not panicking and pushing through.
Check out this interesting research from Harvard University, looking at exercise and drugs as prevention for Heart disease, in some cases drugs were not an advantage and possibly had undesirable side effects.