Exercising show jumping horses for longer periods could potentially improve performance

Exercising show jumping horses for longer periods could potentially improve performance
23 Feb 2015

In a recent study in Sweden, three factors were found to correlate with fitness levels in show jumping horses: the average duration of all exercises, the average time spent doing gymnastics exercises and the amount of time spent at pasture. The purpose of the study was to scientifically document the training regime of 19 show jumping horses during an outdoor competition season and to examine the effects of exercise and other parameters on the horses. The horses were competing at heights of 120-16ocm and were trained by either amateur or professional riders. Riders kept a training diary and horses underwent at fitness test at the start, middle and end of the competitive season. 

Horses showed the highest V4 at the start of the season, when the duration of these activities was recorded by the riders as being on average longer. V4 is a measure of how fast and long horses can go before their blood lactate hits a maximum, a by-product of muscle activation processes and an indication of fitness.  

Turn out time has been shown in a previous study not to affect V4, indicating that perhaps exercise duration is more likely to be the main cause of increased fitness.

In horses competing in sport disciplines other than show jumping, V4, the speed at which blood lactate reaches a concentration of 4mmol/L, can be used to predict fitness and performance.

The researchers noted that no horse in the study was ever exercised for more than 60 minutes, even if the exercise was something moderate such as hacking outdoors. Contrastingly, humans training at an elite level in many types of sport would spend more time daily training than this.

Longer duration of exercise has been shown in several studies to improve V4 values of horses and might be a worthwhile exploration in the training program of a show jumping horse to increase performance.

It would be interesting to conduct further studies in this area with a larger sample size.

Reference

Sommer, L. H., Munk, R., Nielsen, S. M., & Lindner, A. (2015). Training of horses used for show jumping and its effect on v 4. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science.

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