Use of a global positioning and heart rate monitoring system to assess training load in a group of Thoroughbred racehorses

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Abstract

Reasons for performing study:

Training is an important variable for determining athletic success. Nonetheless, there has been minimal scientific evaluation of racehorse training programmes. Training of racehorses focuses on running the horses at certain speeds using a combination of a stopwatch and rider's ‘feel’ for a horse's work intensity. Consequently, actual work intensity for individual horses is not clearly defined.

Objectives:

To 1) utilise a combined global positioning system (GPS) and heart rate monitor system to quantify training intensity and physiological responses of a group of racehorses undergoing training and racing; and 2) compare the workload measured by the GPS to that timed and recorded daily by a racehorse trainer.

Methods:

Nineteen racehorses age 3 years were followed through a traditional training and racing programme over a 4 month period. Daily GPS and heart rate data together with the trainer's timing and distance data were collected while the horses were trained. Data were analysed using an ANOVA for repeated measures.

Results:

The combined GPS/heart rate monitoring system detected different heart rate responses in individual horses subjected to the same training workouts. The average speeds detected with the GPS system were in agreement with average speeds timed by the trainer. However, peak speeds reached during training were significantly greater (P<0.05) than those estimated with stopwatch timing. The horses average training speeds increased significantly over the duration of the training period.

Conclusions and potential relevance:

The results from this study show that a GPS/heart rate monitor system provides a reliable measure of daily workload in horses during training. This technology provides a detailed picture of horses' training sessions and has the potential to provide a greater insight into the types of training that may predispose horses to injury.

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