Have I dragged this post out long enough for you? Can you tell nothing exciting has been happening at the barn lately?
Surprisingly enough the heart rate monitor lasted through several rides both on the trail and in the barn's outdoor arena before I gave up on it. The plethora of data I had expected to gain from it just never materialized. I had numbers and more numbers and even more numbers, but in essence they either meant nothing or just confirmed what I already suspected.
So what did I learn?
For starters I learned that the authors of those training plans are full of crap. I'd love to meet one someday and see if they even follow their own plans because I don't see how it is possible. I couldn't get Gem's heart rate even close to their suggested level and even if I could there is no way to maintain it for any length of time. Maybe if I lived in the Rocky Mountains and attempted to gallop her up them full speed. I don't know.
The more important thing that I learned from my experiment was that paying attention to my horse was more important than paying attention to my watch. I had read that the monitor could inform you of when your horse needed a break or if pain was ensuing because you would notice an increase in the heart rate. That is true. But it is also true that just knowing your horse and paying attention to them easily does the same thing.
When Gem is doing a power trot and gets tired she jumps to a canter. I had always figured it was because the canter was easier for her then the fast trot. She is inherently lazy, so I highly doubted she would choose to do a gait that was more strenuous than the one she was already doing. It turns out that I was right - her heart rate would drop considerably in the canter. It was the same on up hills. She chooses to trot hills rather than walk and I let her. Again, it turns out that walking up a hill has a higher heart rate than trotting up the same hill. Her heart rate recovered pretty quickly with the change in gait too. It didn't take a very long walk break before it was back to almost baseline. A long canter stretch would get it pumping, but dropping to a slow trot would cover ground and allow her to recover. Unfortunately, I had already inherently known these things, so it really didn't tell me anything new. It did reinforce my belief that Gem is exceptionally good at taking care of herself and that I really need to listen to her. If she asks to walk it is generally for a good reason.
So the monitor found a new home in the back of my closet. I did really like the GPS to see how far we had gone and a basic idea of how fast, so I replaced it with my Garmin which I love.