Cooling down is an integral part of a horse’s schooling programme. To summarise its functions, the cool down period is a phase of gentle exercise that lowers the risk factors for stress injury to tissues such as tendons and ligaments, decreases the level of fatigue, and lowers the body temperature gradually without allowing the horse to catch a chill.
Cool down exercises, such as circling in walk on a long rein, also promote faster clearance of blood lactate than if the horse was left standing; this helps increase the rate of recovery after exercise.
Such exercises also allow the horse to release the large amounts of heat that have built up during work via sweating – they also aid gentle circulation in the lower legs which helps avoid post-exercise swelling around the lower leg joints.
The actual cool-down exercises you use will depend on the amount of work, the environmental conditions present at the time, and the individual horse in question. The duration of the horse’s cool-down programme after ridden work should be tailored to its level of fitness and discipline. But generally speaking, around five to ten minutes’ worth of ‘long and low’ work at the end of a flatwork session will be sufficient. After jumping or more strenuous work, ride the horse long and low for around fifteen minutes. Remember, a nice short hack will also help the horse to cool off – you don’t have to stay in the manage!
Once you have returned the horse to the yard after work and have completed your ridden cool-down exercises, in the summer it is likely that the horse will need a wash-down. The cooling-down exercises will have allowed the animal’s heart rate to drop to near-resting values, so a cool water rinse will now assist in reducing body temperature to its normal state. It is also an enjoyable experience for the horse – much like us taking a shower after a work-out – and helps aid bonding between handler and horse! (Although you should be prepared to take something of a shower yourself – the experience is rarely a dry one!).
Top tip – after you have used a washing product or just cold water, don’t let it stay on the horse’s body for too long, especially in hot weather, as the water can retain heat – it is better to ‘wash and scrape’ quickly.
One-Handed Sweat Scraper: Product ID: 26115. It features a soft rubber edge for sensitive areas, and comes in four colours.
Corrugated Sweat Scraper: Product ID: 26110. In three colours. With plastic handles; one side is serrated, and the other side is smooth. It can be easily bent and used as a one-handed scraper.
Pharma Wash & Go. Product ID: 25607. 500ml. A mild but effective wash, with a
fresh, green apple scent. Ideal for post exercise washing down – use in small quantities with a sponge and rinse well.
Washing Sponge. Product ID: 26140. In yellow. This large durable sponge is ideal for shampooing and washing down horses after exercise.