Just the FAQs
Warming Up and Cooling Down
- Why warm up? What is the importance?
- How do I "warm up" my horse?
- What do I have to do to "cool down" my horse?
Proper warm up is essential to keeping your horse fit and muscle tone elastic. Warming up and cooling down will help to minimize muscle stiffness and loss of range of motion.This will also help to prevent injury such as tendon or muscle injury. Warming up usually takes about 10 minutes. In cold weather, older horses and other factors, it may take as long as 30 minutes.
These are general guidelines only. It is not imperative that you do exactly as I say. However, with that in mind, one should follow a warm up routine of some type similar to this:
Begin by walking if at all possible. I realize some horses are simply too game to allow you to do that, but, if you can, walk. Walk for several minutes at least. Walking before athletic exercise will improve the oxygen delivery and waste product removal to and from the muscles.
The next step is to begin with slow trotting or jog. Proceed to a more brisk pace, extending the trot gradually. This allows the horse to increase the stretch of connective tissues and puts more muscle fibers to work.
Then, ask for a loose, collected canter before asking the horse to go into the training session or workout. This should take approximately 10-15 minutes for most horses. Your horse will thank you for it. If for no other reason, remember, your horse is an investment of money. Take care of the investment.
Again, suggestions of cooling down to follow. You will modify to suit your needs:
After the training session, workout or competition is over, mild sport specific activities, followed by trotting, walking and finally walking on a loose rein for 10 minutes or more is desirable. This allows the horse to cool down more slowly and helps to avoid excess lactate in the muscles. Obviously, other factors come into play, such as how hot is he? Depending on the weather, respiration levels, etc., in summer months you may need to hose him down first, then hand walk until cool. Use common sense. A very hot horse or an overheated horse needs immediate attention.
In the cold months, towling off excees sweat to hasten drying and preventing chills, then hand walking with a cooler on for 10-20 minutes may be in order. Coolers are especially important in cold weather. They help the horse to cool down more slowly allowing for better removal of waste and toxins which build up during exercise. They help prevent a horse from chilling which is another reason for muscle stiffness.
Obviously, if it's cold outside and your horse is standing there in his wet winter coat he runs the risk of getting chilled and sick. Mine stand tied in the stall with the cooler on for awhile. The expression "rode hard and put away wet" that we tend to use to signify we've had a rough day... well... where do you think it comes from? Even if the horse isn't sweaty, in cooler weather, using a cooler for 10-15 minutes or so after exercise is beneficial. They also help pull away excess moisture from your horse's coat. Sometimes you need to use 2 at once. Buy one if you don't have one. Your horse is an athlete. Treat him like one. Again, these are suggestions only. The cool down process is very important to the overall health of your horses muscles.