Exercise physiologist Dr. Carolien Munsters gave a KFPS College Tour presentation about training Friesian horses. Munsters obtained his doctorate in 2013 in horse sport physiology at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Utrecht. With her company Moxie Sport she has already been able to guide many riders and help them optimize their training.
Carolien Munsters explained to viewers of the live stream that to improve a horse’s condition, intensive training must be alternated with a recovery period: ‘A horse gets tired from training, muscles acidify, and it takes one to two days for the body to has recovered sufficiently for the next training.’ If there is not enough rest between the training sessions, there is a risk of overtraining, which means that the condition of the horse will deteriorate over time.
In 2010 and 2011, Munsters and a research team monitored Friesian horses in the ABFP tests. A fitness test was taken with the young horses, a walk-trot-canter for a few minutes. This showed that Friesian horses acidify quickly, something to take into account in training. Young Friesian stallions were also trained in the Central Examination in 2020 and 2021. The most important conclusion last year was that training five times a week for the young stallions was too much: they were tired at the end of the Central Examination. For this year, the training program was adjusted to train a maximum of three times a week and it turned out that the stallions came out of the Central Examination fitter.
Heart rate monitor
What is optimal training for a Friesian horse? Munsters advises young or untrained horses to train for about twenty minutes three times a week and to build this up slowly: ‘Galop costs a lot of energy for Friesian horses and is seen as intensive training. So also choose to alternate with a lighter training, without a canter.’ Friesian horses do not easily show that they are tired, so Carolien Munsters advises to work with a heart rate monitor: ‘Certainly with older, more well-trained horses, then it turns out that they have more trouble with the training than they show on the outside. Dosing training work is quite difficult, which increases the risk of injuries.’