MAINTAIN FITNESS THROUGH CANTERING
Brief, occasional canters may be of some help in maintaining a horse’s fitness during lay-ups or other low-activity periods.
In a study conducted by researchers at the Japan Racing Association, 27 Thoroughbreds underwent an 18-week conditioning regimen using treadmills. The horses were then divided into three treatment groups: One group was cantered at 70 percent of their maximal rate of oxygen consumption (a measure of fitness) for three minutes a day, five days a week; the second group was walked for an hour daily, five days a week; and the third group was kept on stall rest.
At the end of the 12-week study period, each horse’s cardiovascular fitness— including maximal cardiac output and oxygen consumption—was measured. The data showed significant decreases in the fitness levels of horses in all groups, although those that cantered experienced less of a decrease in conditioning. Some of the cardiovascular and plasma lactate measurements in the canter-group horses did not change at all during their time off from regular training.
The researchers conclude that it may be possible to identify a minimal exercise threshold for maintaining cardiovascular fitness during breaks from training.
Reference: “Effects of maintaining different exercise intensities during detraining on aerobic capacity in Thoroughbreds,” American Journal of Veterinary Research, February 2017