Heart rates of dressage horses during competition
A total of thirty-five horses performing at elementary- and medium-level dressage were monitored at six different competitions. The horses, predominantly Warmblood or Thoroughbred cross geldings, were competing in a total of 50 dressage tests, 36 of which were at elementary level and 14 at medium level.
Heart rate recordings were made every five seconds using a heart rate monitor. The horses were monitored during the warm-up and throughout the duration of the dressage test. Video recordings were used and a stopwatch was started at the same time as the stopwatch function on the heart rate monitor in order to relate the movements of the horse to the video and heart rate measurements.
No difference was found between the mean and peak heart rates for horses warming up and competing at elementary and medium level. Significantly higher heart rates were found during competition compared to warming up for both levels. Furthermore, mean heart rate in warm-up was related to mean heart rate in competition. No association between heart rate, warm-up duration and score or placing was found.
Concluded was that the heart rates suggest that horses competing at elementary and medium levels are working almost entirely aerobically. Further research has to be performed to examine the relationship between heart rate response in relation to different movements and with higher levels.
> From: Williams et al., Comp. Exerc. Physiol. 6 (2017) 7-15. All rights reserved to Cambridge University Press. Click here for the online summary.