Although it has not yet become the norm, a lot of trainers have already begun low-intensity training for their horses, to supplement their regular training. This is known as detraining and is believed to help the animal recover from injury while allowing the trainer to address various behavioural or psychological issues that the horse may have. Thus, trainers are starting to feel that detraining should be an essential part of a training session.
Studying the Effects of Detraining on Horses
Kazutaka Mukai, of the Japan Racing Association’s Equine Research Institute, located in Tochigi, recently conducted an experiment to understand the effects of three detaining protocols on 27 thoroughbreds. The aim was to find out whether a period of low-intensity exercise would positively or adversely affect the horse’s aerobic capacity and performance level and whether detraining should be a must while training horses.
The team believed that the horses’ circulatory, as well as aerobic capacities, would go down in proportion to the intensity of the exercises done. The horses were trained for 5 days a week, for a period of 18 weeks. They were placed on a treadmill at an incline and had to complete a warm-up exercise, a three-minute canter, and a cool-down exercise.
The warm up exercise included walking for about 1 minute and trotting for another 3 minutes. This was followed by each horse being assigned to one protocol from the three, for a period of 12 weeks.
What did the study include?
The cantering protocol was the first part. It consisted of warm-up exercises that are similar to those done at the time of training. The horse had to canter at different percentages of their maximal rate of oxygen consumption. This included a 100 percent VO2 max for three minutes, a 90 percent VO2 max for three minutes and so on. Twice every week, the horses were made to work at 110 to 115 percent VO2 max for about three minutes.
This would then be followed up by cool down exercises that were the same as those done during actual training. The rest of the time, the horses were kept stalled.
Just like the cantering protocol, the walking protocol was also done five times a week. The horses had to cover about 1.7 meters per second for an entire hour and were then allowed to remain in the stable. For the stall protocol, the horses were made to stay in a 3x3 meter pen for a total of 6 hours per day and would be moved to stalls of the same size, for the remainder of the time.
For the stall protocol, the horses were made to stay in a 3x3 meter pen for a total of 6 hours per day and would be moved to stalls of the same size for the remainder of the time.
What the results revealed?
The study provided evidence that the detraining protocol actually reduced a horse’s oxygen transporting capacity, along with their cardiopulmonary functioning. Their cardiac stroke volume and cardiac output decreased in all the groups. However, in the cantering protocols, there were very few changes and many values remained the same as they were during the training period.
It was only the waking and stalling protocols that showed marked reductions in all categories. This finding surprised the researchers as they had hypothesized that walking would have greater effects on the animal’s aerobic capacity.
Thus, the study was able to suggest that engaging in a regular cantering detraining program during the training period may have more beneficial effects than making the horse walk for detraining.
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