Why its vital to give your horse a proper winter warm up?
The cold weather can lead to stiff muscles and not to mention the dreaded “cold weather friskies!”
Some horses may not be in as regular work, or maybe stabled for longer periods of time due to the drop in temperature and the darker evenings. This can often mean playful behavior in the field which can sometimes cause injuries. Even if your horse is in regular work, it is still vital that you are giving extra time to warm up your horse.
Here are some tips to try which could help to prevent muscle related injuries.
Before you tack up, make sure your horse is warm before you begin.
You can do this by simply extending your grooming session, using a soft bristled brush in a circular motion down the neck , across the back and hind quarters. This can be very effective to increase blood flow, and will help begin to warm up the muscles.
If you feel you need to clip your horse make sure the type of clip is reflected in the amount of work your horse is doing. A bib, or blanket clip may be enough if your horse in only in light/medium work
Try extending walking exercises when beginning work, allowing your horse to walk for a longer period of time. This will give the muscles more opportunity to warm up and also adjust to the colder temperature. Walking on a long rein, will also help to keep the muscles relaxed.
Keep your horse in regular work. Doing this will help keep your horse more level headed, and will also help to keep the muscles more supple. Even if you are unable to dedicate large amounts of time to work your horse. Light amounts more often is better than heavy work at irregular periods.
Try using an exercise rug during warm up. The ever growing equine industry offers a huge range of rugs purposely made for use during riding activity. They can be really beneficial to help keep the lumbar and hind quarters warm. But not all horses are comfortable wearing one, so make sure your horse is relaxed and happy before mounting.
Try adding heat. During the colder months I use the Epiony heat pad with treatments. Its is ideal to use on the back, lumbar and hind quarters. Perfect for warming your horses muscles as you groom or tack up! Please see the link for more information and how to purchase.
Regular body work. Regular sports massage treatments can be beneficial all year round, however during the colder months they can be even more crucial. A good therapist will be able to find any issues before they become more of a problem. Regular treatments will help keep muscles more supple, and could prevent any soft tissue injuries. Please see Aimee Hailstone Equine Sports Massage for more info!
But don’t forget to always be aware of any sudden changes in behavior, and listen to your horse for signs which suggests they may be experiencing discomfort.
Please feel free to share your warm up routines, and come back next week if you’d like to find out more information on some great tried and tested warm up routines from a few of the professionals.
(Pictures sourced from google search engine)