Importance of Warm ups and Cool downs
Strict adherence to a training routine is a recipe for success for any athlete. Just like humans, horses whether ridden just for pleasure or more specifically sporting, require practice and training. Before any activity, it is crucial that you have a warm up and cool down routine.
Before exercise, we all know how important it is to warm up, and that’s the same for cool downs. Even though horses are different to us, they still require the same preparation for exercise.
Benefits of warming up include:
- Reduces the risk of injuries: Warming up will help to loosen the joints and increase blood flow to the muscle. Stretching the muscles prepares them for physical activity and can prevent muscle and tendon sprains.
- Enhances performance: The heart rate and circulation will increase, which will gently prepare the body for exercise.
Basic warming up steps:
- Preparation: After grooming your horse and saddling up, lead him around loosely for a little while.
- Mount your horse and get into a fast paced warm for 3-5 minutes: This helps to loosen up the muscles in preparation for exercise. Make sure you change direction if you are in an arena.
- Once your horse has warmed up a little bit, you can speed up into a trot for another 5 minutes. Increasing the speed slightly will help to loosen up the muscles and increase the circulation of blood. Ensure that your warm up is comfortable and not too fast.
Benefits of cooling down include:
- Prevents tying up: Cooling down will ensure that the strained muscles return to their stasis condition, this will avoid tying up (muscle tension and micro trauma).
- Prevents rigidity: Cooling down will assist the lactic acid to be removed and swellings or any inflammation of muscles will be minimized.
- Heightens blood redistribution: After exercise, it is important to engage in activities that circulate blood around its body, which will gradually cool the muscles.
Basic cooling down steps:
- In a trot, make your horse stretch out, make sure you change directions diagonally and in larger circles to cool down effectively.
- For 10-15 minutes, walk your horse around and allow him to catch his breath.
- If you horse was sweating during exercise, make sure his skin is drying.
- Allow the horse to have access to clean fresh water.
Before engaging in any physical activity, ensure that you check your horse over for signs of any injury or illness. Keep in mind your horse’s age and size to ensure that your warm ups and cool downs are customized to his needs.