91. Myth or Real? Friesian horses may reach their anaerobic threshold (moment during intense exercise where lactic acid starts to accumulate in the muscles) sooner than other breeds of horse and this plays into how to best train them.

Answer: Real

In a follow up to an earlier research project, a research team in the Netherlands set out to “study strengths and weaknesses of an alternative SET (standardized exercise tests)- protocol” in young Friesian dressage horses. Two different SETs (SET A and SET B) were used during a 2-month training period with 9 young Friesian dressage horses. SET A was compromised of a longer canter intervals with walk and trot in between as compared to SET B which utilized shorter intervals of canter with walk and trot between. The total amount of time spent cantering was the same between the two SETS. Measurements were taken for blood lactate level (BLA) after cantering, average heart rate (HR) at the trot and maximum HR in the canter. Their results showed that the BLA after cantering was greater for SET A than for SET B as was the maximum heart rate at the canter. They also found that the horses with the lowest fitness level at the start showed the greatest training response at the end of the 2-month period. They concluded that young Friesian horses DO reach their anaerobic threshold during a SET that was actually of lower intensity than most daily routine training and “therefore close monitoring throughout training is warranted”. Use of BLA can be used to assess the training response and that, during training itself, monitoring the HR during the trot is advised as it was found to have a strong correlation to BLA and therefore to anaerobic threshold. They also stated “SET B is best suited as a template for daily training in the aerobic window.”

Relevance – the conclusions of this research are of such a practical nature as to be able to be incorporated into the training of Friesian horses immediately. Insight into how these horses cope with the work of training will help us to train/condition these horses more effectively with less negative impact on them metabolically. A very good thing!!

Research Article: deBruijn, MC et. al. Monitoring training response in young Friesian dressage horses using two different standardised exercise tests (SETS). BMC Vet Res series. Feb. 2, 2017 13:49 DOI:10.1186/s12917-017- 0969-8.

Companion Article: can be found at Horsetalk.co.nz under the title “Friesian horses put through their paces in standardized exercise tests”.

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