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Conditioning Equine Vs Human Athletes

Equine Vs Human Athletes

Horses, like humans, can experience many adverse effects of exercising too long and/or too hard without proper conditioning. Also similar to humans, horses have positive adaptations to exercise that will increase their performance over time.

Conditioning of the human or equine athlete involves consideration of the event in which you will be competing, the level of competition that you expect to achieve, the time you have in which to condition, and the previous conditioning for the event.

The goal of any basic conditioning program is to enhance the psychological and the physical responses to exercise. Psychological responses with conditioning include greater confidence and desire to perform. Physical responses include greater strength and endurance, enhanced skills and minimised soreness or injury due to exercise.

Some of the most important physical adaptations achieved by conditioning involve:
Respiratory System - increased oxygen uptake, decreased ventilation during exercise
Cardiovascular System - lower heart rate during exercise, increased heart size/strength, increased vascularity (decreased resistance), increased total red cell volume (increased oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood)
Muscular Anatomy - increased aerobic capacity (increased fast twitch high oxidative fibers = more time before lactic acid accumulation and fatigue during events), increase in the muscle size/strength, change in fiber type
Tendons and Ligaments - strength and quality may be affected
Bone - decreased bone turnover, increased quantity, quality, and geometry of bone in response to training
Thermoregulation - involves cardiovascular system.

Horses are better athletes than humans. Horses can physiologically outperform human athletes. Horses have a greater capacity for taking in oxygen. From rest to maximum physical exertion, horses increase oxygen intake about 50 times compared to only a 7-10 times increase in humans. Greater oxygen intake results in greater athletic performance

Horses’ hearts beat faster. At rest, a horse’s heart beats 28-45 beats per minute (bpm) which can increase to 250 bpm or a 10-fold increase. The human heart at rest beats about 55 bpm but only increases to about 210 bpm or about a 4-fold increase. A more rapid heart beat results in the blood carrying more oxygen to the parts of the body. The horses’ muscles can extract oxygen from blood better than human muscles can, and horses can also regulate the number of red blood cells through the action of their spleens.

The horse has a vast tolerance for lactic acid, a waste product produced when muscles do not get enough oxygen during exercise (anaerobic exercise). Horses performing to exhaustion produce four times as much lactic acid as do human athletes. Human athletes, however, surpass horses in the exchange of oxygen from the lungs to the bloodstream.

As athletes, horses and humans must be physically fit to perform the various tasks demanded of them. It is vital that all athletes be evaluated as an individual and at many levels. It is also important to incorporate a well thought out conditioning program, which will fully prepare the athlete for maximum performance.

posted by Jessica Blackwell | 0 Comments


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