Conditioning de Endurance Horse

Endurance horses are trained and conditioned to perform over long distances at moderate speeds. When conditioning a horse for long distance competition, The training program must be designed and monitored to match the specific exercise type and intensity of competitive endurance riding.

The major physiological adaptations that can directly influence exercise capacity and stamina of endurance horses include:

1. The efficiency of gas exchange, oxygen uptake, and delivery to the exercising muscles. Endurance horses rely almost entirely on aerobic metabolism of muscle energy (glycogen), fatty acids (blood lipids) and volatile fatty acids form hindgut fermentation.

2. The heart size and its capacity to deliver large volumes of blood to the working muscles. Although the exercise demand is not as high as for galloping horses, circulation of blood volume of 3-4 times per minute through the working muscles is common in endurance horses to deliver oxygen and take away the heat generated.

3. The type of training must be matched to condition mainly aerobic capacity for maximum efficiency of glycogen use. The aerobic pathway is used mainly during exercise, which is aided by the specificity of muscle fibre types to the highest aerobic capacity required.

4. The development and adaptation of skeletal structures to meet the requirements of a specific type of loading and stress imposed by concussion, 'wear and tear' and bone turnover of calcium during long distance exercise. This will help ensure the soundness of the animal and minimum downtime or layoff during long training programs.

5. The adaptation of the blood vascular system to maximize oxygen delivery to the working muscles by optimum red cell parameters and haemoglobin content to deliver oxygen to enable peak aerobic efficiency, regardless of speed or duration of exercise.

6. Endurance horses do not need to have the high red cell counts required by galloping horses, but they do require maximum aerobic (oxygen) delivery to the working muscles and must not be anaemic. The relative concentration of circulating red cells (called the packed cell volume, or PCV or haematocrit) also increases during endurance exercise due to reduction in circulating blood fluid as dehydration develops form sweat and respiratory loss. It is a disadvantage to have a high cell count.

7. Conditioning of the thermoregulatory function to efficiently remove heat produced during metabolism. This is an important function in endurance horses as the efficiency of sweating and fluid body reserves must be conditioned and maintained to ensure efficient cooling.