3.8.3 Heart rate
The heart rate during exercise and recovery is relevant to the significance of a cardiac condition; however, it also depends on numerous variables such as the fitness of the horse, the state of the ground and presence of other abnormalities. Prolonged recovery following exercise may result from significant pulmonary or cardiac disease. As a rough guide, the heart rate should return to within 15% of the normal level within 15 minutes of the end of light exercise and within 30-45 minutes for more rigorous exercise. Horses with pulmonary disease may remain tachypnoeic for a prolonged period during which the heart rate has fallen at a normal rate.
Within the limits of the numerous factors which affect heart rate, a rough guide to the rate which would be expected after prolonged exercise at different gaits in a fit horse is of some value. Approximate values are:
beats per minute
Trot 80 Canter 110 Fast canter 140 Gallop 180 Maximal heart rate 240
In some instances it may be helpful to establish what level of exercise can be achieved before reaching maximal heart rates. This may indicate the amount of work which the horse could reasonably be expected to perform.