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It is not a Mystery

Our current research indicates that general reference to heart rates as rules of thumb for slow twitch and fast twitch muscle fiber development is incomplete. Additional evaluation such as lactate analysis is needed for each horse to be specific and of most value.

Resistance Conditioning and Heart Monitoring

The body of the horse, as with the human body, is basically an adaptation machine that wants to maintain a state of homeostasis or "return to what feels normal".  Anything that disrupts this feeling stimulates a response to try to return to "normal".   When cold is felt, the body starts to shiver to warm up.  Being thirsty prompts drinking.  If the body feels hunger, we eat.  When overheated, the body perspires to increase evaporation to lower skin temperature.  The basic physiological makeup for both the human and the horse is for the body to adapt to changes in the conditioned environment. 

If conditioning to race a horse at top speed for the entire race is normal, then a horse’s body will “naturally” want to adapt to that “all out, all the time” level. 

Preparing the equine athlete for consistent top level performances suggests that you include some specific training tools and techniques.  Don’t change your program, just add more tools and ideas .

A purpose of this paper is to help us better recognize and understand more exercise science and apply these tools to our workouts.  The benefit list of resistance training, heart rate monitoring and lactate analyzing is very long and we are just scratching the surface. 

One of the keys to training for high speed stamina is to better understand muscles and how they work.  

Type I muscle fibers are also called slow twitch fibers (aerobic) or red muscle fibers.  They are red because their capillary system is comparatively large accommodating all the blood flow it can get.  These muscles are aerobic and oxygen serves as a primary fuel source.  They are in operation all the time and mostly help with endurance. These fibers are rugged and not so easily injured.  They can handle extreme amounts of work and do not fatigue easily. They are oxygen dependent since they require blood oxygen as fuel and used In human athletic activities like middle distance running, soccer, cycling and cross country.

Type IIA fibers are fast twitch (FT) white muscle fibers (anaerobic). These fibers have much less blood flow in them and have a more limited tolerance to fatigue.  They can handle only short demands of all-out-work. They require glycogen, which is derived from carbohydrates, as fuel.  They are involved in athletic activities like basketball, baseball, soccer and football.

Type IIB fibers are also fast twitch (FT-B) white muscle fibers but these fibers have a very low tolerance to fatigue and need a long period of recovery after use. They are extremely powerful and explosive fibers.  Human sport comparisons like power lifting, the pitch of a baseball, javelin throwing, shot putting or the beginning of a sprint are examples.  In other words, anything that needs a short burst of explosive energy.   Because of this, type IIB fiber’s fuel is ATP/CP (Adenosine Tri-Phosphate and Creatine Phosphate)

Type IIC fibers (FT-C) are "freak type" fibers. They are formed when satellite cells chemically bind with the Type IIB fibers. This event is called hypertrophy.  Body building is a prime example.

Satellite cells are cells that abound in muscle tissue but have no contractile ability until they are developed and assigned. Maybe we could call them “swing cells”.  Science is still unclear about more details, but knows that their function will add structural support to the muscle.

Two Powers – Fire Power and Staying Power

Racing horses are born with 70% to 90% fast twitch muscle fibers.  The principal function of fast twitch muscle fibers is strength carried out in speed.  The horse is blessed with this instant fire-power to flee from predators.   Fortunately the horse also has muscle fibers for stamina called slow twitch fibers and, like humans, swing fibers that are yet to be directed regardless of the muscle cell ratio at birth.  The most successful racehorses may be born with a very high percentage of fast twitch cells, making for speed, and who have been conditioned to produce high mitochondria density in those cells.  Therefore their speed may carry for longer periods with less fatigue. The horses envoronment (conditioning) and the central nervous system can modify fiber types and improve muscle operation over time.

Heart rate monitoring gives the trainer the ability to choose which specific muscle fibers to stimulate.  

Benefit Points of HRM:

  • The heart rate in a racehorse is like a "biotachometer"--it reveals how hard a horse is working at any moment in training.
  • The heart rate in a racehorse is quantitatively reflective of the cardiac output, or the amount of blood that is being circulated to the muscles and other tissues. 
  • Monitoring the peak heart rate and the rate at which the heart rate recovers from a workout and elements within a workout, helps reveal the condition of the horse.  Polar software allows easy analysis and comparisons.
  • Monitoring, recording and analyzing heart rate information will allow trainers to design training schedules to better condition all systems in their athletes bodies.
  • Recording heart rate data over time will give an objective picture of a training program.
  • Abnormally elevated heart rate can be indicative of pain and/or excitement in a horse.  But to know what is abnormal for a horse, one must first know the resting heart rate for that horse.
  • Monitoring the heart rate takes more of the guess work out of training. 

(Potter, 2005)

The Slow Twitch (ST, or aerobic) fiber types are predominantly trained at heart rates around 150 to 175 beats per minute, or 50% to 65% of maximum heart rate. The Fast Twitch (FT, FT-B, FT-C, all are anaerobic) fibers that can be improved generally at heart rates of 180 beats per minute to 100% of maximum heart rate. These generalized percentages for heart rate focused conditioning can be effective.

A more specific approach however uses lactate analysis to determine aerobic (oxygen dependent) and anaerobic (oxygen independent) thresholds. The most contemporary science with using a lactate approach however employs the athlete's Lactate Balance Point. LBP means you know when the amount of lactate that is being produced by the working muscles and also consumed as fuel by all the muscles is in balance. The LBP becomes a specific reference point and can be conditioned for improvement.

Lactate analysis in training both humans and horses is not new and FaCT Canada's Lactate Balance Point philosophy is the cutting edge.

LBP is basically a process of testing. It gives you more information to identify and analyze racing weaknesses. It's also then a new source of conditioning ideas to convert weaknesses to strengths. The LBP ongoing testing process gives you more ways to evaluate results. When you race the results may be more profitable.

It is also valuable to know each horse's maximum heart rate. There are easy tests to determine maximum heart rate.

Resistance Cart exercises can help develop all muscle fibers.

Here are more benefits of a Resistance Cart:

  • There will be less wear and tear on the horses all the while producing more work value.  Working at a lower speed while conditioning at a higher heart rate or workload.

  • The injury potential while training horses is reduced.  Valuable aerobic and anaerobic conditioning levels can be produced by applying different degrees of pressure at slower speeds and therefore less impact.

  • Resistance (strength) training creates a physiological foundation for more endurance.

  • Resistance training is undertaken to develop power or the ability of the muscles to apply force at the proper rate.

  • The physiological gains from progressive resistance work include:  Increases in capillarization in the muscle fibers and increases the availability of fuel to the muscles.  Increases in cell mitochondria and increased inter-cellular fiber density; stronger bones and connective tissue.  Other bio-motor benefits include increases in flexibility and greater coordination of the entire organism.  (Zatsiorsky, 1995)

  • Resistance training in addition to increasing muscular strength and hypertrophy may also aid in the prevention of skeletal injuries.  Resistance training promotes and/or increases the strength of ligaments, tendons, tendon to bone and ligament to bone junction strength and joint cartilage and the connective tissue sheaths within muscle.  Studies involving human and animal models also demonstrate resistance training may increase bone mineral content.  The incidence of various overuse injuries such as bowed tendons in horses and in human terms, swimmer’s shoulder and tennis elbow, may be reduced by the performance of sport and/or motion specific increased resistance training activities.  (Fleck/Falkel, 1986)

  • You may increase the productive racing life of your horses.

YOUR PROFIT is our Bottom Line.  Racehorse Conditioning Systems knows our systems work and will produce positive results. “Money isn’t everything, but it ranks right up there with oxygen”.

Get started now!  For a 10 horse stable with one resistance cart, Polar set-ups and Lactate Analyzer would be about $300 per month.   

Racehorse Conditioning Systems
24 Old Stage Road – PO Box 130
Albrightsville, PA 18210
Tele: 570-722-COLT(2658)
Fax: 570-722-2659

Hit the Target…the Core of Performance is Conditioning…

Resistance Conditioning.