Intermittent Hypoxic Training
The horse racing industry is steeped in tradition and folklore dating back 100 years.In many instances the lessons learned over time have proven to be most effective means of training race horses – both thoroughbred and standardbred. However, to gain that competitive edge, trainers and veterinarians are turning to the lessons learned in human exercise science to apply to training the elite athletic horse.
In recent years, heart rate monitoring and blood lactate analysis have gained wide spread acceptance within the horse training community. Since the 1968 Mexico Olympics, elite human athletes have focused on the benefits of altitude training. It is significant that most world records for long distance events are held by athletes who were born, and/or who train at, altitude. These athletes are physiologically more efficient at uptake, delivery and utilization of oxygen. Clearly the exposure to altitude does improve an individuals overall vitality that has consistently translated to improved performances in certain individuals.
Until recent times the ability to train horses at “altitude“ in the same way as human athletes (with scientifically documented research to support the practice) was impractical. That was, of course, until the advent of Intermittent Hypoxic Training (IHT)
IHT provides a number of immediate and simple strategies that can be applied to the racing and breeding of horses, based on independently conducted scientific research reviews, observation, practical experience and direct extrapolation from the human model experience.
It has been proven that IHT significantly improves the efficiency of oxygen metabolism in the body, allowing the horse to maximize its genetic potential. IHT is a very potent means of endurance improvement and stimulation of the anti-oxidant health preservation system. Enhanced blood oxygen carrying capacity and efficiency of oxygen consumption by tissues and cells, along with increased capacity of the anti-oxidant (free radical scavenging) system in the body are major attributes of Intermittent Hypoxic Training.
After a course of IHT the following physiological changes are apparent:
- Improved blood biochemical indices
- Improved immunological status
- Increased VO2 max
- Reduced muscle damage following exercise (lower muscle enzymes)
- Smooth muscle stimulation
- Enhanced sympatho-adrenal system
- Cardiovascular system adaptation resulting in:
vasodilation, increased microvessel density and reduced peripheral resistance
decreased mean arterial blood pressure and heart rate
- Respiratory system adaptation resulting in:
improved lung tissue where damaged
increased Hypoxic Ventilatory Response
increased minute ventilation, total and vital lung capacity
There is no evidence that IHT enhances performance beyond the horse’s genetic potential. IHT does not appear to cause statistically significant changes on red blood cell parameters but may help normalise anaemic horses. There is evidence, that IHT may have a therapeutic role in reducing the muscle damage associated with strenuous exercise.
In summary IHT can help “re-vitalize” a horse. It does this by stimulating the horse’s own immune system to overcome the stresses of training and racing. With the use of IHT, the horse is more likely to reach his or her individual physiological potential for performance. There is no evidence that IHT will enhance the performance in an un-natural way.
Nature Vet High Performance Technologies Pty Ltd believe that IHT will facilitate each horse to compete at its full potential without the negative impact of the stresses associated with racing, such as musculoskeletal, respiratory, cardiovascular, immune system suppression and neurological problems.
OTHER APPLICATIONS OF IHT.
Acclimatization of Horses for Air Travel:
When horses are flown in aircraft they are subjected to a lower oxygen pressure than that experienced at sea level. The cargo hold is routinely pressurized to between 2000 and 3000 metres above sea level. Thus, horses are experiencing the effects of altitude. For unacclimatized horses this is physiologically demanding and all horses arrive at their destination physiologically depleted. By the use of IHT, horses can be conditioned to higher altitudes and thus significantly reduce the detrimental effects of long haul flights. Your horse will arrive physiologically fitter and ready to race or perform much sooner than otherwise.
Enhanced Effects on Fertility:
A theoretical application of IHT is to stimulate and train the developing foetus in utero. In humans born at high altitude, this effect appears to persist as permanently enhanced oxygen metabolism.
Also IHT in humans has shown to enhance fertility by increasing the density of capillaries in the endometrium and placenta. Similarly it would be expected that IHT could enhance the pregnancy carrying capacity of older valuable mares showing signs of fibrosis of the endometrium. This is only one of the many mechanisms that we feel could help the reproductive potential in geriatric mares.
Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF):
Perhaps the most exciting application of IHT is in the management of the lung damage associated with Exercise Induced Pulmonary Haemorrhage (EIPH) in horses. Human studies have shown that IHT promotes release of Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor. Increases in VEGF may play a significant therapeutic role in the treatment and management of this serious affliction endemic in racehorses. Until now there has not been a potential therapeutic treatment for the horse with EIPH. If the human studies prove to translate to the horse this serious problem in racing could be diminished significantly.