Cardio-metabolic responses during horse riding at three different speeds



The purpose of the present investigation was to study the metabolic demand and cardiovascular response during a typical horse riding session.


To this aim, 19 (9 male, 10 female) riders, regularly participating in competitions, were enrolled. They underwent a preliminary, incremental exercise test on a cycle-ergometer to assess their anaerobic threshold (AT) and VO2max. Then, participants underwent a riding training session, which comprised periods of walking, trotting, and cantering for a total of 20 min. Oxygen uptake (VO2), carbon dioxide production (VCO2), and heart rate (HR) were obtained throughout the preliminary and riding test by means of a portable metabolic system. Moreover, excess of CO2 production (CO2excess) and oxygen pulse (OP) were also calculated to obtain an estimate of anaerobic glycolysis and stroke volume.


The main result was that all collected parameters remained below the AT level throughout the riding session, with the exception of HR that approached the AT level only during cantering. In detail, during cantering, average VO2, VCO2, HR, CO2excess, and OP values were 1289 ± 331 mL min−1, 1326 ± 266 mL min−1, 158 ± 22 bpm, 215 ± 119 mL min−1, and 7.8 ± 1.6 mL/bpm, respectively.


It was concluded that riding imposes only light to moderate stress on the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems. Moreover, cardiovascular reserve is only moderately recruited in terms of inotropism, while chronotropism can be stimulated more.

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Fig. 1
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Fig. 4



Anaerobic threshold


Blood lactate

VCO2 :

Carbon dioxide production


Heart rate

VO2max :

Maximal aerobic capacity

CO2excess :

Excess of carbon dioxide production


Oxygen pulse

VO2 :

Oxygen uptake


Pulmonary ventilation


Respiratory exchange ratio


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This study was supported by the University of Cagliari and the Italian Ministry of Scientific Research. The authors wish to thank Mr. Barry Mark Wheaton for his editorial assistance.

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Correspondence to Antonio Crisafulli.

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The authors have no conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to the content of this manuscript.

Ethical standards

Each subject gave written informed consent to take part in the study, which was approved by the local ethical committee and conforms to the principles of the declaration of Helsinki.

Additional information

Communicated by Guido Ferretti.

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Sainas, G., Melis, S., Corona, F. et al. Cardio-metabolic responses during horse riding at three different speeds. Eur J Appl Physiol 116, 1985–1992 (2016).

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  • Oxygen uptake
  • Carbon dioxide production
  • Heart rate
  • Anaerobic threshold
  • Oxygen pulse