Keeping your horse fit while hacking can form a major part of your horse’s fitness or schooling plan.

Here to explain how to use interval training with your horse while hacking is endurance rider Beccy Broughton Booker.

Why interval training?

It’s easy to incorporate interval training into your hacks, and its purpose is to develop your horse’s muscles, stamina and respiratory system by gradually building his fitness.

“It’s a great way to improve cardiovascular fitness as it involves high intensity exercise for short, repetitive durations,” says Beccy.

“Build up to repeating each exercise three to four times in a session.”

Boost your horse’s stamina

Your horse’s respiratory system works aerobically when his heart rate is up to approximately 150 beats per minute (bpm) – though each horse is an individual, and so this will vary.

At this level, he can work without tiring.

“As your horse’s heart rate increases above 160bpm, lactic acid starts to build up in his muscles and he’ll fatigue quicker,” says Beccy.

“This is why your horse can only maintain harder work for short periods as he is now working anaerobically.

“The fitter your horse gets, the more improved his stamina will become, in turn improving his aerobic capacity.”

Work your horse harder not faster
There are different interval training methods.

Some riders use a stop watch and set a time limit for trot, walk or canter; others will monitor their horse’s heart rate, and some will use distance as their gauge, so will ride in trot to a specific marker, such as a telegraph pole or wall, before changing the pace.

“Alternatively, the intensity of the exercise can be increased by either using a gradient or by increasing the speed,” says Beccy.

“Speed alone may not be enough to reach the heart rate required to start building up your horse’s fitness and stamina.

“The most important thing is to develop an interval training plan according to his initial ability and fitness, and build up to it gradually. Think quality, not quantity.”