In part 3 of our 3 part series on conditioning we take an in-depth look at high speed conditioning. If you missed the previous two parts to this series go ahead check out our articles on Long Distance Conditioning and Interval Training.

What is High Speed Conditioning?

High speed conditioning is used to increase the horse’s anaerobic capacity. This means that high speed conditioning is working to improve the horse’s ability to work anaerobically, or without oxygen. This is necessary for activities that require the horse for extended periods of intense exercise where the horse is not going to be able to pull in enough oxygen to fully fuel the muscles.

Elijah Galloping

This type of conditioning is especially popular for racehorses who are required to sprint distances in order to increase the horse’s speed and ability to maintain speed throughout the race.

With proper conditioning the horse becomes more efficient at working anaerobically and is able to put out more effort when required to work anaerobically. This makes the horse better prepared for anaerobic activities such as gallops or and short intense bursts of activity.

Considerations and Benefits of High Speed Conditioning

High speed conditioning helps build bone density and type II muscle mass. Type II muscle, also known as fast twitch muscle, is the muscle used for short, powerful bursts of activity. High speed conditioning strengthens the body and prepares it for aerobic activities, making it a great complement to other conditioning methods in a complete fitness plan.

The downside of high speed conditioning is that it does rely on anaerobic exercise, which tends to fatigue the body and lead to sore muscles due to the creation of lactic acid. It is very important to properly cool the horse down so that the lactic acid can flow from the muscle before putting the horse away.

Working a horse at top speed will also generally lead to fatigue and overtraining, which decreases the horse’s physical ability and requires rest in order for the horse to recover. Therefore when performing high speed conditioning horses are generally kept at about 75-80% of their top speed. This is fast enough to stimulate the anaerobic exercise without generally causing fatigue symptoms.

Inclines of a 5% to 10% grade such as steep hills can also help simulate high speed conditioning without requiring the horse to gallop, which may reduce wear and tear on the horse’s body as well as encourage correct use of the horse’s hindquarters.

How Can You Add High Speed Conditioning into Your Routine?

High speed conditioning can be a great addition to your fitness routine regardless of the horse’s main job. High speed conditioning helps strengthen the body, which can be useful for any horse even if the horse is not required to ever work anaerobically in his normal work.

I like to include high speed conditioning at least once or twice a month in my horse’s routine. Normally I will either do a gallop set or canter some hills to build up the horse’s fitness. This is also a fun way to allow the horse to open up and truly work through his entire body, which can be difficult to achieve in arena work.

It is recommended that high speed conditioning be repeated once every 5 to 10 days depending on the expert consulted. However, I don’t generally have a need to build up my horse’s speed or anaerobic fitness so I normally would not do this conditioning as often. If I did have a horse that I needed to increase speed and really push to the max I would want to do high speed conditioning weekly in between my normal training sessions.

Do you use high speed conditioning as part of your fitness plan for your horse? Why or why not? Leave a comment down below.


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