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How to prepare your horse for effort and manage his muscle recovery Logo PaskaCheval

In all equestrian or horse-racing disciplines, good results depend on your horse’s condition. Genetics, training and nutrition are essential parameters that need to be controlled. But they may not be enough to ensure the full expression of a horse’s potential. This is where muscle warm-up and locomotor recovery come in. Why is it important to support this and how can it be done?

Before effort: warm-up of the horse’s muscles

As the term indicates, a warm-up raises the horse’s body temperature. The aim is to mobilise the muscles and joints in order to prevent muscle strainstendinitis and other locomotor system problems. During this phase, the cardiovascular system is also mobilised. In addition to being a warm-up, this stage also helps both horse and rider prepare mentally for the competition and the new environment in which they will compete.

Time is required to ensure the success of this key phase, which must be progressive. In equestrian sports (show-jumping, eventing, endurance, etc.), this stage takes place in the warm-up ring. In horse-racing (flat-racing, trotting, etc.), it takes place during heats on the race-track. It is useful to precede this phase with massages using heating gels to speed up the increase in muscle and joint temperature. It is important to make sure that these products do not contain any capsaicin, since this can lead to positive doping test results in horses.

After effort: recovery of the horse

  • Active recovery
    After significant exertion, it is necessary to promote your horse’s recovery. A distinction is made between active recovery and passive recovery. The first generally involves gentle trotting at a regular pace. This helps eliminate toxins (lactic acid, urea, etc.) and promotes a return to normal breathing and heart rate. This is an essential step to prevent aches and pains, or conditions such as myositis (“tying up”).

  • Passive recovery
    This is achieved via massage and the application of external products and treatments. The use of heating products and/or infrared lamps helps promote drainage and, hence elimination during the massage phase. After this first stage, the application of a poultice to the tendons helps reduce inflammation by absorbing inflammatory fluids. These types of products are used to tighten up the tissues again (astringent properties) in order to prevent the development of certain soft injuries (such as windgalls). These poultices can be in the form of ready-to-use clays or may need to be diluted in water. They are characterised on the basis of their origin (marine, earth), their trace element content and, if applicable, any supplements added. 

Clay from the Chausey Islands is known for its naturally rich mineral content. These poultices can be left uncovered or wrapped in paper, plastic film or resting bandages. Once they are dry - the day after their application, for example - the clay can be removed from the horse’s legs by rinsing them off with water.

Person applying clay to a horse's leg
Clay application

Cooling gels are an alternative to these poultices. They are applied to the tendons just like clay and tighten the tissues up due to their astringent properties. The advantage of this type of product is that it does not require prolonged rinsing like clay.

Cold therapy or cryotherapy is also used during recovery. This can involve the application of cold packs or the use of more elaborate methods, such as gas cryotherapy. It has been shown to be particularly effective to aid muscle recovery, in order to prevent cramps, and in tendon recovery, to reduce the risk of tendinitis. Specific training is required to use gas cryotherapy.

Careful warm-up and recovery management are essential to guarantee the performance and longevity of athletic horses. Discover all our solutions for external use at our distributors: clay, gels, French powder, gel range

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