Racing and eventing causes horses to exert themselves to the max and puts excessive stress on their bodies and post race care is extremely important. Helping horses recover quickly from their exertion is extremely important to ensuring that both horse and rider are fit enough for their level of competition is vital in avoiding unnecessary injuries.
Immediately after the racing and eventing, the horse’s temperature, pulse and respiration must be returned to normal as quickly as possible. In order to judge the horse’s rate of recovery, trainers and owners need to know what is normal for the horse at rest.
The first thing is to get fluids back into the horse. Give five to six “gulps” of water immediately after the race or event and give the horse those small drinks every few minutes. This will help the horse to recover faster and get the necessary fluids back into their system.
The “old” way of thinking to cool a horse off is to apply cool water all over the horse’s body. The truth is that you should apply warm water, it will open up the pores to have the heat escape the body. Cool water will close the pores keeping heat inside the body. Cool water run over the horse’s head can help cool the horse out more quickly.
The horse’s rectal temperature peaks 5-10min after the completion of a race or event. The horse should be walked until its respiration rate reduces to normal and it also can be a good idea to walk, wash and walk alternately until the horse has recovered.
Once the temperature, pulse and respiration have returned to normal, the focus turns to the horse’s legs. There is a huge range of products on the market designed to help a horse’s legs after exertion and everyone has their favorite.
Cold hosing or washing down with cold water is a good way of cooling the legs. Cool boots or bandages can also be helpful, but for many horses a quality leg brace or simple poultice will be enough.
Some horses with old injuries require ice, before “putting them away”. Ice applied directly for more than 30min has the potential to burn the skin.
The next day:
Close examination of the whole horse the next day is crucial. You should trot the horse off and check for stiffness, jarring and any swelling. If they are ok, turn it out into the paddock and let it walk any stiffness off. If a paddock is not available, hand walk and if they aren’t 100% get it checked out by your vet.