Breath Like a Horse Not Like a Dog: Understanding Equine Locomotor-Respiratory Coupling

“Breathe like a horse, not like a dog.” - Patanjali

There is so much wisdom in that statement by Yoga Master, Patanjali. Why? Because horses have mastered the breath. Very few horse breeds have mastered the breath quite like the Thoroughbred racehorse. Have you ever listened to a fit horse galloping, either in the fields or on a track and observed the perfect rhythmic flow of their breathing? In a healthy well-conditioned horse the stride and the breath are in synch at a 1:1 ratio, 1 stride, 1 breath. You can almost set a metronome to the steady sound of airflow being exhaled through the nostrils—while the limbs strike the ground.

A more in-depth explanation of what's going on here is called locomotor-respiratory coupling (LRC). Quadrupeds (horses in this case),  must lengthen their stride to increase speed. To increase respiratory minute volume (amount of gas/air inhaled per minute) tidal volume (the amount of air exchanged in and out of the lungs)...

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