Monitoring training response in young Friesian dressage horses using two different standardised exercise tests (SETs)

Cornelis Marinus de Bruijn, Willem Houterman, Margreet Ploeg, Bart Ducro, Berit Boshuizen, Klaartje Goethals, Elisabeth Lidwien Verdegaal, Catherine Delesalle*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Most Friesian horses reach their anaerobic threshold during a standardized exercise test (SET) which requires lower intensity exercise than daily routine training. Aim: to study strengths and weaknesses of an alternative SET-protocol. Two different SETs (SETA and SETB) were applied during a 2 month training period of 9 young Friesian dressage horses. SETB alternated short episodes of canter with trot and walk, lacking long episodes of cantering, as applied in SETA. Following parameters were monitored: blood lactic acid (BLA) after cantering, average heart rate (HR) in trot and maximum HR in canter. HR and BLA of SETA and SETB were analyzed using a paired two-sided T-test and Spearman Correlation-coefficient (p* <0.05). Results: BLA after cantering was significantly higher in SETA compared to SETB and maximum HR in canter was significantly higher in SETA compared to SETB. The majority of horses showed a significant training response based upon longitudinal follow-up of BLA. Horses with the lowest fitness at start, displayed the largest training response. BLA was significantly lower in week 8 compared to week 0, in both SETA and SETB. A significantly decreased BLA level after cantering was noticeable in week 6 in SETA, whereas in SETB only as of week 8. In SETA a very strong correlation for BLA and average HR at trot was found throughout the entire training period, not for canter. Conclusions: Young Friesian horses do reach their anaerobic threshold during a SET which requires lower intensity than daily routine training. Therefore close monitoring throughout training is warranted. Longitudinal follow up of BLA and not of HR is suitable to assess training response. In the current study, horses that started with the lowest fitness level, showed the largest training response. During training monitoring HR in trot rather than in canter is advised. SETB is best suited as a template for daily training in the aerobic window.

Original languageEnglish
Article number49
JournalBMC Veterinary Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017


  • Friesian
  • Heart rate
  • Lactic acid
  • Longitudinal
  • Standardized exercise test
  • Trot


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