Intense workouts are a vital part of keeping your horse fit, but it is quite common to focus too much on the workout itself without keeping in mind the importance of the post-workout recovery. The reality is that there are several ways in which you can help your horse recover faster and better after a workout session, leaving your equine partner ready for the next workout, race, event or competition.
A balanced diet is vital
A proper recovery post-exercise enables the horses to continue to perform at top levels. Poor recovery from racing can potentially lead to injuries, sub-optimal racing performance and can also impact future racing longevity. Strenuous exercise can have an impact on many areas of body function; muscle function, electrolyte and fluid loss, energy storage and blood acid-base balance. Guaranteeing proper nutrition enables the replenishment and recovery of these processes. It is key for the optimal performance and wellbeing of your horse.
Intense exercise can cause the breakdown of muscle fibres. It can also stimulate the body and increase muscle mass. High quality proteins are required for the reparation of muscle fibres and for the supply of building blocks for the generation of new muscle cells. A poor muscle mass can impact muscle function and eventually lead to fatigue faster. Muscle soreness after a race or workout and a loss of muscle mass could be indicators of poor protein intake.
Hand-walking is actually a key part of a horse’s rehabilitation program. However, this can also be hazardous to the horse’s recovery and to your own wellbeing. If you are not 100% per cent sure that your horse will be behaving himself, don’t take chances. Be aware of your level of handling skills and be honest with yourself about your own limitations.
Discuss with your horse trainer or vet the possible short-term use of sedatives in case you feel the horse is in any danger of hurting you or himself while being hand-walked. Ask your horse therapist or another qualified person who has completed a training course on how to become an equine rehabilitation therapist to give you a hand-walking lesson.
Leaving hand-walking aside and going back to recovery after a workout or a mild injury, consider the following strategies for a better and faster overall post-workout recovery.
Cooling down the horse
A proper, slow cool-down time is absolutely needed for any athlete horse. Cooling down a horse will help to keep it from overheating his body. It also gives you the opportunity to evaluate how well the horse is moving after the competition or workout session. Walk the horse on a loose rein to let him stretch and relax after the workout. Usually, about fifteen minutes of walking a horse after a workout session should be enough to help cool him down, but for especially intense workouts in warmer weather conditions, like competitions or racing, you might need water to speed the process along. Constantly applying water on your horse’s coat can help to draw heat out and away from his body, taking his temperature back down to normal.
Poultices and liniments can also assist with your horse’s recovery. Liniments can help to cool down limbs, drawing out the heat that results from the workout or exercise. If swelling is present in a leg, a poultice can help to draw it out, thus keeping the leg firm. Wrapping over a poultice provides valuable compression to prevent stocking up.
Massage your horse is another valuable technique when it comes to horse recovery. A post-workout massage will help to reduce inflammation and swelling, relieve any pain or stiffness, and improve the horse’s overall circulation for a better recovery. Massage is a non-invasive technique and can be the ideal therapy for your horse after an especially intense race, competition or event.