Saturday, June 9, 2012


We have been at this condition thing pretty steadily  for  several months now.  Given  the recent ride with poor recoveries in respiration,  I had some concerns over Maggie’s fitness ,  mare heat issues aside. I have to be realistic with the upcoming ride just  4 weeks away.  It’s not going to be an easy ride. Lots of elevation and lots of climbing.  I want to be 100 % sure we are as ready as we possibly can be. After all, the work , time and money involved in  attending  a ride that is over 10 hours away  from home is nothing to sneeze at. Travel for the better part of an entire day, pay the ridiculous fuel costs, get camp set up , and pay the ride fee, only to find out half way into the ride you don’t have enough horse to complete.?  I would rather not…
Uncertainty is always part of the gig in this sport.  There are no guarantees in endurance. Even if I had a horse that was fit enough to complete a 50 or 100 mile ride, sometimes, things just happen. One bad stumble or stone bruise and that could be it.  Weekend over. There are certain things that even in the best of situations, we can’t always control. 
Maggie’s condition level however,  is  something I can control.

 For some reason I had it in my craw that endurance took respiration into account on P&R, after all , it is called P&R, pulse and respiration… One would think???   After checking the rule book, I realized I was thinking about CTR rules where you have be no more than 9 breaths or less for 15 seconds, or  36 breaths per minute after your 10 minute time period. Anything above this rate will cause you points. Pulse rules are 12 beats or less for 15 seconds at the end of 10 minutes, or  48 beats per minute. Again, anything above this you will have points taken off your score.
According to CTR rules, respiration is definitely an indicator of conditioning but NATRC goes on to state that it can be heavily influenced by the riders actions and care of the horse. Agreed. There are tricks to get a horse to relax at a hold, therein decreasing heart rate and respiraiton. Things like rubbing the horses favorite spot, ears, queing the horse to put their head down, getting lots of water on their neck and jugular in the heat. They  consider respiration important but not as critical as pulse in. Hmmmm... Really???
Interestingly enough, some of the information I read indicated that the rules then do a 180 and go on to say that in a  fatigued horse, it’s one of the indicators of the horses temperature and over all metabolic state.  I found this information in the NATRC  rules conflicting  and a bit misleading.  I  disagree  that respiration is not critical if it’s in fact an indicator of the horses metabolic state. If a horse is teetering on the edge of metabolic failure,  respiration rate is one of  the first signs to be paying attention to. 
 In endurance,  it's a little different but not real concise either. A control judge may take the horses respiration into consideration  when checking the horse over in a hold , but respiration doesn’t really seem to be too heavily weighed  in endurance .That’s not to say that if you come in and your horse is gasping for air or panting, that the judge won’t  have concerns and require you and your horse to hold longer.  The main difference between NATRC and AERC  that I can find regarding respiration is that  there isn’t specific respiration criteria stated in the rules for endurance like there is in Competitive trail. The horse must only  meet the pulse criteria within 30 minutes or less of arrival at all check points.  Criteria is 60 bpm or less.This criteria can also be changed by the ride manager depnding on trails conditions or weather.  In my experience volunteering to take Pulse  & Respirations at rides, the better conditioned horses were well below 60 within a couple minutes of coming into a hold or finish.  As far as what AERC says about respiration? “Respiration should be evaluated on it’s own merit” according to rule L4.1.2. That is about it. Not much. It seems like it's really up to the rider and control judge. In Endurance, the whole idea is that you want your horse down as quickly as possible because it's all about the time in /time out and the clock. Thus the reason you often see endurance riders walking their horses into the hold point, as opposed to CTR's where you have to be trotting in. And yes, if you aren't trotting, they ding you...(learned that lesson the hard way!)

Generally,  I don't get concerned about Maggie's pulse until we hit the 10 minutes mark. As long as she is down in 10 minutes or less , I feel  like she is not being overly exerted. Obviously, the faster she is down the better.

The last two rides I have had on Maggie was Thursday and then today again. Thursday we completed a little over 8 miles.Today we did 11.5 miles. I rode with the HRM both times. On Thursday, "T" was along with his gelding and that was really sending Maggie to the moon with her pulse. Today was much better on our own.

Thursday evenings ride we started out and she was shy rocketing to 180 on the level at a slow trot when she was behind Brego. When I put her up front, she stayed in the 130's. We climbed a hill at a slow shuffle jog and she topped out at 158. She recovered to 110 in 45 seconds.  Put Maggie behind Brego... skyrocket to 190-210-eeeekkkk!  At the end of the ride , We trotted back to the trailer.  I wanted to see just how long it took her to come down.
Total: 4 min 44 sec to drop from 85 bpm to 58.  She hung at 77-78 for a few seconds and even jumped back up to 85 briefly , then dropped to 65- then to 58. Not horrible.
Today, we climbed a few more hills. We were alone. The highest Maggie hit was 163 on a bit of a climb, but she recovered to 113 within just a few seconds. We kept a much more steady pace today than we were able to on Thursday. When we were done, I let her walk back to the trailer only because it was raining,  windy, I had grit in my eye that was bugging the hell out of me  and I was beat down tired from an intense workout of my own yesterday.  Our ride today covered 11.5 miles in 2 hours. We got to the trailer and Maggie was at 77. She dropped to 58 in 2 min and 23 seconds.  Not bad.
Her respiration recoveries were much better on both rides. She is also mostly out of heat. Correlation?? Probably at some level. However, the temps were much cooler on both  Thursday and today's ride than on the ride she was struggling on last week. It was muggy that day and temps were in the high 60's. We have been very cool yet.. heat is going to be a problem for her when it does come.
Over all, my sense is Maggie should be ready. I need to do a few more  hill climbing days and maybe some interval/speed days but barring any major issues, we can keep the ride on the calendar .


All Who Wander said...

She sounds a little emotional about following other horses. If you can get an opportunity to ride at a busy trail hub, it would be interesting to watch her recovery with horses coming in and going out. Phebes would just ring herself out fretting about other horses. It took her several LD's before she learned to relax at a hold, but eventually she was coming in and dropping right down to 47 bpm. Hang in there!

Mel said...

I've never had a respiration noted on my vet card, which I hadn't realized until you posted on this. How interesting.