Some of the Basics...
Pulse and Respiration Checks
NATRC competitions involve traveling
many miles on your equine partner. It is important that both you and your horse be in good physical
condition in order to cover the distance safely. Forty percent of the horse's final score is based
on measurements of his condition during the ride. To make sure the animals are not overly stressed
and to help measure his condition, several P&R stops will be encountered over the course of a
competition. At these stops, your horse's pulse and respiration will be taken over a 15-second
interval after a 10-minute recovery and recorded.
At the ride briefing the night before, the veterinary judge
will have announced P&R criteria.
Usually it will be said as, "16 Go, 17 Hold," or something similar. What that means is after
10 minutes of standing quietly, if your horse, mule or pony has a count of 16 or fewer heart beats
and breaths in a 15-second count, you will be allowed to continue. If the count is 17 or more for
one or both, you will be held an additional 10 minutes to help him recover. This time WILL BE ADDED
to your minimum and maximum time allowed. The "Go/Hold" criteria are set by the vet judge and change
at every ride based on terrain and weather conditions expected the following day.
Most P&R's are taken out on the trail. You will be riding along
and rounding a bend, and you will
spot someone standing next to the trail handing out cards. Slightly further, you'll see riders
standing next to their horses, talking softly, fanning them and possibly pulling off their saddles
in an effort to "get their horses down" to criteria. The time written on your card will be 10 minutes
after the card was given to you and will indicate the time of your check. You should dismount and
quietly lead your horse next to the last horse in line, facing the same direction as everyone else.
Leave enough room so the P&R crews can get around between the horses safely. If the next horse in
line has yellow ribbons in his tail (denoting a stallion) or red ribbons (potential kicker), give
some extra space. Ten minutes later, the time indicated on your card, the P&R volunteers will come
past, check your horse's pulse and respiration, and record it.
Horse and rider teams lined up at a P & R.
Vet judge checking metabolics at P & R.
After you have dismounted, you may
tend to your horse as you wish as long as it does not disrupt the horses on either side of you.
It's a good idea to loosen your cinch just enough to give the horse a little more breathing
space. It's also considerate to run the stirrup up or throw it over the saddle so it's not in
the way for the P&R team.
In NATRC rides, the pulse is always given first,
followed by the 15-second respiration count.
The rules allow your horse a maximum of 12/9 for a P&R without penalties. If your horse's heart
beats 12 or fewer times, and he takes 9 or fewer breaths during the 15-second count, there will
be no points deducted from his condition score. One point will be lost for every count above 12
for the pulse and every 4 counts above 9 for the respiration. For example, if the P&R volunteer
records a 14/7, your horse would lose 2 points for the pulse. You may immediately ask for a
recheck if you think the count was off. Something could have startled the horse during the first
count or he might have moved around. The recheck will be done by the P&R captain, and you must
accept the second count...even if it is a higher number.
Everyone has their own routine to calm their horse down; some stroke the
horse's face and ears using T-Touch while others feed electrolyte cookies
and sing to their horses. In hot weather, some horses start to pant to
dissipate heat. Since everyone is concerned with getting the lowest P&Rs
possible, please keep the noise and the movements down. If your horse begins
to act up, disturbing those around you, the P&R captain might ask you to
move your horse away from the others. It is best to establish a P&R routine
with your horse so he stands quietly and gets the best recovery numbers
possible. It usually takes a new horse 5-6 rides before he understands,
so be patient. The more relaxed you are around your horse, generally the
calmer he will be.
Photo by Andy Klamm
After your horse's pulse and respiration have been taken,
you will be given the card to sign.
Double check the P&R numbers written on the card before you sign it. The P&R team will either
give you the card to carry up to the waiting veterinary judge or keep it to give to the judge
later. If you have removed your saddle, get tacked up quietly. It is common courtesy to wait for
the horse behind you to have his P&R taken before you move off. Ask the rider behind you if they
are done, and wait if they are not. You are given 15 minutes at each P&R stop to allow for this
and other "necessities". During a P&R stop, it is permissible for a volunteer to hold your horse
if you need to go to the bathroom, get a drink of water from the trucks, or fix your tack.
You might be asked to trot in hand or mounted to the veterinary judge, so listen carefully to
whatever instructions are given. You may be asked to mount in front of the judge. Unless you are
asked to mount in a specific place, you may use anything to help you mount, including rocks, logs,
banks, etc. If in doubt, ask if it's okay to use whatever you've located.