Heart rate variability in trotters during different training periods

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Reasons for performing study:

Endurance training induces changes in autonomic nervous system functions. High intensity training includes the risk of overtraining, in man and horse. Heart rate variability (HRV) is a noninvasive measurement of the autonomic regulation of the heart rate, which is quick and easy to measure with modern telemetric technology.


Since HRV is affected by changes in the autonomic nervous system, it might be an early stage indicator of poor recovery from a previous bout of exercise or overreaching or overtraining in horses in general.


The aim of the study was to monitor recovery and the possible overtraining status in horses by measuring HRV. The measurements reflected the responses of the previous day activities during different training periods including basic training, precompetition and competition during a one-year follow-up.


HRV was at the highest during precompetition period (P<0.05) and it decreased significantly during competition period (P<0.05), indicating an increased stress load in the competition period. Walking increased HRV significantly compared to complete rest or jogging as previous day activities during basic training and precompetition periods (P<0.05). This finding suggests that horses are more relaxed during moderate exercise than standing still or anaerobic exercise.


HRV can be used to monitor the cardiovascular responses to training in horses but confirmatory measures may also be required in addition to HRV to exclude other possible causes of underperformance.

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