Your equine is not only your friend but he or she is an athlete. You need to keep them in great condition in order to have many, many years of continued fun and learning.
A simple 5 to 10 minute warm up is important to keep your horse in optimal condition for years to come. It’s good for both his physical and mental well-being (and yours!). In preparation for a workout, while brushing him, use a little harder pressure to jump start the circulation in his muscles.
When we are preparing a horse to workout, after brushing him, we will do a little Horse Yoga. While we clean his hooves, we gently stretch each leg out as far as it will go with no resistance. The keyword here is gently! This will, loosen his joints, lengthen the muscles and increase circulation.
When starting to do this, if you haven’t handled your horses legs too much, take care to do it slowly and safely until he becomes more accustomed to the movements. Especially when beginning with the hindquarters, care must be taken to ensure the handler’s safety. Begin by stretching the leg slightly after cleaning the hoof and each day stretching a little further.
After working on each leg, we saddle the horse and walk him out of the barn. With one hand on each set of reigns, we will slowly flex the horse’s head to his left and then slowly to his right. This prepares him to be both soft in the mouth and it stretches the neck muscles.
After mounting your horse, allow him to walk extending as far as he can without breaking into a trot or jog. This will ready him mentally for the tasks ahead while improving his circulation, warming up the muscles and enhancing his oxygen uptake. A horse who is properly warmed up can better draw upon energy reserves and give you his best.
After a workout, the warm-down is just as or more important than the exercise warm-up. A good warm-down will help flush the built-up lactic acid and other wastes from the muscles, allowing his heart to slowly resume a resting circulatory rate. A warm down will help in preventing blood or fluid accumulation in legs and joints avoiding lameness and stiffness. A warm down should take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, depending on how hard he worked.
A horse should not stand still after a workout, move him in a free, elongated walk. This ensures the muscles will cool down slowly. Dissipating the heat in the muscles is very important. To further help the cool down process after walking him , you can massage your horse’s large muscles, such as the rump, shoulders and neck. It doesn’t need to be a specialized massage, rubbing him is great, he’ll love it and it will clear out any intramuscular debris.
A little bit of water is ok, just small sips until the horse is sufficiently cooled down. No food should be given until the horse is completely cool. Bathe your horse and make sure he is cool by placing your hand in his chest. If it was a particularly hard workout, use a product like Absorbine to massage his legs, improving the circulation. If you feel a normal temperature, he is successfully warmed down!
Make sure to always allow enough time to warm up and warm down your horse before and after every workout, even if you have to cut down your actual workout time. Your best equine friend will thank you for it for years to come!
Happy and Healthy Riding!