Regular training sessions and workouts are essential for keeping your performance horse in top condition. But it’s important not to skimp on post-workout recovery. Horses that aren’t properly tended to after strenuous workouts and competitions are more prone to injury.
You’ll also want to make sure that your training equipment, like jumping saddle pads, etc., fit correctly to prevent soreness, rubbing, and chafing that could also lead to issues.
Here are 5 things you can do to help prevent injuries and also help your horse recover better—and faster—after workouts.
1: Warm Up
Warming your horse up before an intense workout prompts the release of red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the tissues. It also helps muscle tissue access energy stores and improves the elasticity of tendons and ligaments, which may help prevent injuries. Proper warmups may also prevent lactic acid from building up in muscle tissue by boosting aerobic metabolism.
2: Cool Down
Cooling down helps prevent overheating and allows the horse’s muscles to rebound. In most cases 10 to 15 minutes of walking on a loose rein will be enough to cool your horse down. But if you’ve been working your horse hard, especially in hot conditions, you may need to wet the horse completely. Apply and remove water from your horse’s coat continuously to draw heat away from his body.
A solution of rubbing alcohol and water (1 pint of alcohol per 5 gallons of water) can help accelerate cooling in hot conditions. Fans, hand-walking, and misting fans are also helpful.
3: Soothe Sore Muscles
Horses are all muscle—it’s why they’ve been used for transport, work, and sport for thousands of years. Gentle massage can help ease their sore muscles after an intense workout or training session. Massage also helps relieve stiffness and pain and improves circulation.
Solarium therapy is another excellent option. Horse solariums use infrared light to penetrate deep into muscle tissue. This stimulates blood flow, which is vital for oxygenation and tissue regeneration. Exposure to infrared light can also improve blood sugar absorption and boost the expulsion of lactic acid from muscle tissue.
A session on a vibrating plate will also help remove lactic acid from the muscles, helping to prevent tying up after a heavy workout. It also disperses heat build-up in the feet and legs.
4: Hydrate and Supplement with Electrolytes
Horses lose a lot of fluids during training. Supplement with electrolytes every 20 miles during intense workouts, especially during hot weather. Also make sure your horse has access to a salt block in the stall or paddock. Endurance horses should be allowed to drink water whenever they desire, while horses engaged in anaerobic activity (like racing) need to cool down before being allowed to have a long drink.
Horses can have hay or green grass after a workout, which help deliver fluid and electrolytes to the intestines. But withhold grain until the horse is well cooled down—the goal here is to ensure enough blood flow has returned to the intestinal tract for proper digestion.
5: Tend to the Horse’s Legs
It goes without saying that your horse’s leg health is critical. Always check your horse’s legs after a workout for swelling, abnormal or localized heat, lumps, bumps, scrapes, cuts, and scratches. Soothing ligaments and poultices can help draw out excess heat from the legs after intense exercise. They’re also helpful for reducing inflammation and swelling.
Try applying a soothing clay or salt-based poultice and wrapping the horse’s legs, which adds valuable compression to prevent stocking up. Distributing pressure evenly is critical. Apply bandages with a regular overlap to avoid cutting off blood flow to any particular area of the leg.
Also, hosing legs off after a workout under cold water or icing will help.
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