Bbbbrrr Rabbit!!! It's cold. In fact in parts of the country it is the coldest it has been this season, thanks to the polar vortex! Also, its the beginning of a new show and rodeo season. The stock show season is in full swing. With that brings the challenge of preparing for competition in less than ideal conditions.
How you cool your horse down is important.
It is important to your horse's HEALTH and LONGEVITY.
Making sure your horse is properly cooled down instead of unsaddled and put back in their stall sounds simple and makes sense. What does that mean? Walking them until their breathing starts to normalize. This can be done either by hand or in the saddle. Make sure their temperature has started to come down and they are less warm to the touch. In colder weather, if your horse has gotten sweaty indoors, make sure they have dried before going back out into extreme weather. This may take some extra time in cold or hot conditions. Along with the essential cool down, it is important to monitor your horse's water intake hours after competition. Some horses are less likely to drink as much as they should in colder weather. This can lead to serious complications.
Warmer weather may seem to be the answer to the proper cool down. It can have its complications as well. In warmer months, proper rinsing and walking is in order. Depending upon heat and humidity conditions, rinsing your horse may need to take longer than you think. Some horses who have trouble adjusting to increased humid conditions will benefit from extra time with the water hose. Rinsing and using a sweat scraper can aid in the cooling process. Repeating this sequence over and over is helpful to any horse in humid conditions. Ice may be needed for highly competitive horses that have many events back to back. There are typically more rodeos or horse shows in warmer months. It is vital to properly cool down whenever you can in order to be ready for the next competition. Extra stress is put on horses in the summer so let's help them help you.
Taking extra time no matter whether it is hot or cold will help aid in recovery. It will help with the elasticity of tendons and ligaments. Soft tissue such as muscle and fascia will be less likely to stiffen. There are often other factors that come into play into your cool down routine including scheduling and traveling to other events. Extra time and attention to detail will have your horse thanking you and will improve performance.
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Farley Schweighart is a Physical Therapist who helps riders and their horses heal from injury, improve performance, and return to winning.