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Title: Physiological demands of eventing and performance related fitness in female horse riders
Author: Douglas, Jenni-Louise
ISNI:       0000 0004 7225 0105
Awarding Body: University of Worcester
Current Institution: University of Worcester
Date of Award: 2017
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Introduction: Scientific investigations to determine physiological demands and performance characteristics in sports are integral and necessary to identify general fitness, to monitor training progress, and for the development, prescription and execution of successful training interventions. To date, there is minimal evidence based research considering the physiological demands and physical characteristics required for the equestrian sport of Eventing. Therefore, the overarching aim of this thesis was to investigate the physiological demands of Eventing and performance related fitness in female riders. Method: The primary aim was achieved upon completion of three empirical studies. Chapter Three: Anthropometric and physical fitness characteristics and training and competition practices of Novice, Intermediate and Advanced level female Event riders were assessed in a laboratory based physical fitness test battery. Chapter Four: The physiological demands and physical characteristics of Novice level female event riders throughout the three phases of Novice level one-day Eventing (ODE) were assessed in a competitive Eventing environment. Chapter Five: The physiological demands and muscle activity of riders on live horses in a variety of equine gaits and rider positions utilised during a novice ODE, including jumping efforts, was assessed in a novel designed live horse exercise test. Results: Chapter Three reported that aside from isometric endurance, riders anthropometric and physical fitness characteristics are not influenced by competitive level of Event riding. Asymmetrical development in isometric leg strength was reported with increased levels of performance; riders reported below average balance and hamstring flexibility responses indicating limited pelvic and ankle stability, and tightness in the hamstring and lower back. Chapter Four reports that physiological strain based upon heart rate during Eventing competition is considerable and close to maximal, however blood lactate data was not supportive of this supposition. Chapter Five reports that during horse riding, riders are exposed to intermittent and prolonged isometric muscle work. During horse-riding, riders have an elevated heart rate compared to the oxygen requirements for the activity, in addition to moderate blood lactate concentrations. Conclusion: This thesis indicates that the most physiologically demanding aspect of Event riding is the light seat canter and where jumping efforts are introduced. During these positions and gait combinations, heart rate is elevated compared to oxygen uptake. Additionally, moderate blood lactate (BLa) concentrations are reported suggesting though cardiac strain is high, physical demands are moderate. The use of heart rate as a marker of exercise intensity during horse riding activities is not appropriate as it is not reflective of actual physiologic demand and BLa may be a more indicative marker of exercise intensity for equestrian investigations. There are many factors that may affect heart rate as discussed throughout the thesis, such as cognitive anxiety, heat stress and isometric muscle work. The data from this thesis speculates that the elevated heart rate is in part affected by isometric muscle work; similar physiological profiles exist in sports such as Sailing and are attributed to the quasi isometric theory. Though this thesis is not able to comprehensively conclude that physiological responses are a direct result of quasi isometrics, the data set does infer this may be a potential contributor and as such is a recommended topic for future research. Regardless of the causal mechanism, riders should be conditioned to tolerate high heart rates to enable optimal physical preparation for competition; the physical characteristics and physiological demands placed upon Event riders reported throughout this thesis provides information for coaches and trainers to consider when designing such interventions.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: QP Physiology ; RC1200 Sports Medicine