Elite endurance riders use increasing amounts of sitting canter throughout race stages
21 Feb 2015
A study by French researchers revealed that elite endurance riders used increasing amounts of sitting canter and had increasing mean heart rates throughout the phases of an endurance race.
This is the opposite of what the researchers were expecting; they had hypothesized that the elite riders would spend increasing amounts of time cantering in the two point position throughout the phases of an endurance race. They also predicted that elite riders would make more use of two point position canter than non-elite riders. Two point position has previously been observed to be better for horses back loading and speed although physically more tiring for the rider. The researchers suggest that perhaps the elite riders use more sitting canter as it allows them to conserve energy and better feel how their horse is going.
The researchers also initially thought that fatigue would result in a higher rider heart rate, especially for non-elite riders. In fact, their data showed that the elite riders had increased mean heart rates towards the end of the race while those of the non-elite riders remained stable. It is theorized that perhaps this result is because the aim of the non-elite riders was to simply finish the race, while the elite riders were trying harder to win.
Elite riders were classified as having three or more international podium finishes within the last five years, non-elite riders had less than three. The study was carried out over ten races. The sample size was quite small, five elite riders and five non-elite. It would be useful to conduct further research with a larger sample size, the researchers note.
Viry, S., De Graaf, J. B., Frances, J.-P., Berton, E., Laurent, M. and Nicol, C. (2015), Combined influence of expertise and fatigue on riding strategy and horse–rider coupling during the time course of endurance races. Equine Veterinary Journal, 47: 78–82. doi: 10.1111/evj.12236