No matter the discipline you ride, or the type of excercise you are doing (even lunging), warming up & cooling down you horse is crucial. Always divide your session into 3 elements:
- Warm up
- Exercise activity
- Cool down
The benefits that come with warming up & cooling down are the following:
- Loosening your horse up
- Get their blood flowing
- Move their joints
- Engage horses back
- Move their core
- Get them listening
- Increases energy
- Better utilization of fatty acids
- Prevent build up of lactic acid in muscles
- Decreased risk of injury
- Keeping the horses heart steady
- Avoid overheating
The Warm Up:
1. Start walk in long reins with head beneath the withers (long & low) and with alternate paces and diagonals (5-15mins).
2. Pick up the pace and canter around the arena with loose rein and light position (but keep a contact). Try to keep your horses head as low as possible to stretch his back muscles.
3. Trot loose rein in both diagonals while long & low (2-5mins).
3. Begin with large circles then go smaller.
5. Leg yielding, shoulder-ins, and ground poles are extra useful warm ups exercises too.
Note: A rider should warm up too (stretches & bends) before mounting to increase blood flow and flexibility, as well as to decrease the risk of injury.
The Cool Down:
1. Your horse by the end of his exercise will tend to trot fast. Loosen the reins (head low) and gradually reduce the speed (3-5mins).
2. Loosen the girth by one or two holes.
3. Walk long rein (5-15mins).
4. Untack your horse (hose down if necessary) + remove boots/bandages.
5. Hand walk for another 5-10mins (until horses respiration is steady).
6. Let your horse have some water.
Note: Do not apply a sweat rug/cooler rug if the weather is already hot and humid. Only use in cold temperatures.
Extra Notes & Tips:
- Start slow.
- Do not put your horse away while wet/sweaty.
- Make sure heels are dry before stabling (to prevent mud fever).
- Your horse can have grass/hay after cooling down, but wait 45mins- 1 hr to feed your horse grains.
- The older the horse, the more warm up & cool down they need.
- Increase warm up & cool down time by 5-10 mins in the winter months as muscles take longer to adapt in lower temperatures.
- Using an exercise quarter sheet in cooler temperatures helps ease the muscles to loosen.