Developing the full potential of each racehorse is the main concern of all trainers. However, every horse is different and in order to adapt the exercise and get the best out of each one, trainers learn to know their strengths, identify their specialities, appreciate their behavior and recognize their potential.
Understanding the preferred distance thanks to the locomotor profile
The basis of locomotion analysis is the study of the horse’s stride length and stride frequency.
The stride length of a horse is the distance covered by his stride in trot or canter.
The stride frequency of a horse is the number of strides the horse makes in one second.
Speed is the product of both; what interests us is to understand whether a horse prefers using his stride length or stride frequency to reach his top speed.
Example: To run at 60km/h a horse can :
- Have a stride of 6 metres, repeated 2.76 times every second (6 x 2.76= 16.6 m/s or 60km/h) – Roughly 3 shorts breaths
- Have a stride of 7.8 metres, repeated 2.12 times every second (7.8 x 2.12=16.6 m/s or 60km/h) – Roughly 2 long breaths
Did you know that? At canter, the respiratory cycle is modelled on the horse’s stride, as he inhales during the projection phase and exhales during the pushing phase. This implies that a large stride with a large projection phase will allow a greater inhalation than a small stride. Hence a “breath of fresh air” when the horse changes feet and stays a little longer in the projection phase.
Three types of locomotor profiles can be distinguished
Sprinters are horses that excel over short distances, generally less than 1600m. They are characterized by a very high stride frequency which allows them to reach their maximum speed quickly. The effort to reach these speeds is very intense, the breathing rate related to the stride frequency is very high and the horse can only hold it over short distances.
Milers are horses with an average locomotor profile, they are at ease over medium distances such as the mile, 1600m.
Stayers are horses with very good stamina and can be raced on longer distances. Their stride length is higher and their stride frequency low, which allows them to keep their breath and keep the distance.
EQUIMETRE enables the stride length/stride frequency of horses in training to be measured easily and efficiently. Once the data is monitored, it is fed back into the platform analytical tool for an in-depth and detailed analysis to identify the horse’s profile and therefore its preferred distance.
Objectify terrain and track preferences
Offering the horse the possibility to reach very high speeds several times during the season is very interesting, it also allows the horse to develop its locomotor skills, coordination and balance at full speed. It is also interesting to make the horses work on heavier ground to strengthen their muscles.
In order to consult the training of your horses and to follow the evolution of their performance, it is important to qualify the training of each horse according to the training conditions. The type of training, as well as the type of track and the quality of the ground are the main information to be filled in for the training qualification.
Once you have qualified your training, you can choose to compare the training according to data, type of track or quality of ground. This comparison tool also gives you an overview of the parameters monitored according to the filters you have previously chosen.
The elements to be compared on each type of track in relation to other horses :
- The modification of the stride at 60km/h.
Example: compared to the others, this horse modifies its usual stride very little, despite the fact that it can perform better than the others on deep ground (a priori it can perform better than the others on heavy ground).
- Recovery: this horse shows better recovery than the others on heavy ground. This recovery is almost similar to its recovery on normal terrain.
Developing a horse’s qualities by building on his strengths
The key word: individualisation. By individualizing a horse’s training programme as much as possible, the work focuses on the horse’s identified strengths and weaknesses. Every aspect of the horse’s profile is therefore carefully worked on and optimized to ensure that the horse makes the most of its potential.
The data is then proposed as an interesting tool to build homogenous lots in terms of fitness level, specialities and preferences.
Among sprinters, the horses that make the difference are those that “hold”. The finishing speed of the sprints is generally lower than that of the race train: it is the one that will let go the later. In their training what is interesting is to try to “push the threshold”, i.e. to train the body to produce energy more efficiently to delay the appearance of lactic acid.
To push back the threshold, we can use the graphs of HR zones in the training review page, and aim for workouts around 80-90% of the maximum HR.
During speed exercises the horse will work in the Anaerobic zone, necessary to improve sprint speed and neuromuscular coordination at race speed. This work must be carefully controlled in case of extreme fatigue.
For milers and stayers, it is the horse’s endurance that makes the difference: saving energy during the race allows acceleration to the finish. These horses particularly benefit from long work at a moderate pace, in the mainly aerobic Tempo zone (around 70-80% of the maximum heart rate), during which lactic acid has little effect. Working in this zone improves endurance and develops the cardiovascular system to improve the use of oxygen.
Through individualisation of the work, based on objectification of each horse’s strengths and preferences, the trainer can find the right balance in training to ensure the horse’s well-being while optimising its performance. Objective training data can then be used to provide the keys to engage the horse in the best race according to its qualities.
Keywords: full potential racehorse, fitness assessment, recovery, racehorse monitoring, speed aptitudes, improving the racehorse performance