Ellie Case Study Notes:
These three sessions were conducted at the same arena, with the same rider, tack and bridle starting with the same warm up period. Although I have an extensive experience in equine biomechanics I saw no visible signs of lameness in Ellie when she was first presented. Without the data from the HR monitor I would not have suspected she was working with such a high heart rate. There are many variables that can cause a high heart rate, pain being one of them. After she was shod her heart rate fell well within normal perimeters of exercise. In this particular case we suspect that pain was the leading factor in her excessively high HR. It gives me pause to think of the many horses have suffered unnecessarily in their interactions with humans and how often they continue to perform and work under such conditions. I believe that we have only seen the tip of the iceberg in understanding the sensitive nature of horses. The beauty of science is that it provides empirical information thatís hard to argue with. Look at the startling difference between the first and second session.
Sun, Feb 8, 2015 1:10 PM Arizona
Ellie is a 14 year old Oldenburg mare who survived Katrina as a young horse. She was trained in dressage in Las Vegas NV and eventually ended up in Scottsdale AZ as a lesson horse in a hunter barn. Ellie is 18 hands. She was about 200 pounds underweight. . This was Ellieís first visit to my barn and her first lesson with Gwen. She was unshod with huge platter like front feet. She was very calm unloading and looking around. Her HR elevated slightly on being saddled but at the walk and trot there were big spikes in her HR that would come down immediately when standing. I suspected she had some pain somewhere that might account for the high HR. She showed NO visible signs of lameness and nothing in her body language expressed any emotional problem. I remembered Gwen saying the previous owner had mentioned she didnít need shoes. I picked up her front feet. The soles were entirely on the ground and her hoof wall was not bearing any weight. She had been jumped barefoot. This mare worked throughout without showing lameness or other visible signs of pain. Fortunately the HR showed us something wasnít right.
Average HR 149 bpm
Max HR 214 bpm
Sun, Feb 15, 2015 10:18 AM Mountain Time - Arizona
This HR graph shows Ellieís second lesson and her first wearing shoes. Ellieís gait and landing were significantly different with shoes. HR was much more within a "normal" range with shoes so I suspect that she was more comfortable with shoes and not experiencing pain as she seemed to be without shoes. Without the HR monitor this mare would have remained unshod and worked in pain. Her highest HR was 233 that registered within the first few minutes of ridden work. Was that anticipation of pain associated with riding? Look at the HR after she was given the time to walk for a few minutes. Her work later included canter and her HR was well within the norm. In this case we believe shoeing the horse helped alleviate the pain and is documented by the heart graph below.
Average HR 64 bpm
Max HR 233 bp
Sun, March 8, 2015 12:08 PM Mountain Time - Arizona
Ellie HR show's her some initial spike in her HR while being saddled and first mounted. Was this anticipation of pain? The higher HR in the beginning was during saddling although from a visual glance she appeared fine on the outside the saddling process elevates her HR. After the initial spike her HR became much more in sync with generally acceptable physiological HR perimeters in walk, trot and canter. Note the end of the graph the quick return to a resting HR after the lesson was over.
Average HR 120
Max HR 182