Did you know? Horses are the only athletes, apart from humans, regularly flown across time zones for athletic competitions.
This unique fact led to research, by scientists at the University of Bristol's Faculty of Medical and Veterinary Sciences in England, and published in 2011 in the Journal of Neuroendocrinology, to investigate the effects of jet lag on physiology and performance in race horses.
It's also reminds us how important it is to help our equine athletes stay comfortable and at peak performance. Whether it's the start of a new show season and the need to begin a reconditioning program, or keeping pace with a competitive circuit, the secret to a winning feeling after a performance is through proper warm-up. Keeping muscles limber helps a horse feel good on the way to the in-gate, and a horse that feels good usually performs better.
Warming a horse up is key to minimizing the chance of exercise-related injury, and the benefits are many. When a horse's body temperature is raised and blood flow is increased to working muscles, those muscles and tendons loosen, which increases your horse's range of motion and thus helps avoid the pulling or tearing to tendons and ligaments. Muscles that are warmed up also better accommodate harder work, by more adequately relaxing and contracting. And finally, a moderate warm-up better prepares your horse to dissipate heat during intense exercise.
A successful warm-up routine consists of walking for five minutes, then trotting for
five minutes, before moving on to more
A cooling liniment or lotion, hand-massaged into muscles and legs before warm-up, is an excellent preventative step against soft tissue injury. The combined benefit of manually working the
lotion into the muscles or tendons/ligaments encourages the good blood circulation necessary to avoiding inflammation. The leaves and bark of the witch hazel plant are considered beneficial in enhancing circulation.
Larger muscle groups, like those of the hindquarters and back, can also benefit from pre- and post-exercise massage. More than 60 percent of a horse's body weight is composed of muscle mass, and one of the reasons why soreness can strike is from strain after a strenuous workout or long trail ride. Use your fingers and palms to massage in a cooling liniment whenever your horse's back is sore or hind end is tired.
Sore No-More® Gelotion and original Sore No-More® Liniment target and identify sore muscles by 'lathering,' helping you detect and bring relief as quickly as possible to strains and sprains.
"Sore No-More® liniment conveys a foaming reaction whenever a tender, sore spot exists under a saddle. It has not only helped make my horse clients' backs more comfortable, but is an excellent indicator for areas that need to be cared for in equine athletes," says Connecticut saddle-fitting expert, Gary Severson.
As your horse's workouts increase in time and intensity, the importance of properly cooling them out increases, too. A couple of capfuls of Sore No-More Liniment (or Sore No-More Massage Shampoo) added to a bucket of water before or after exercise as a stimulating brace will help relax muscles and leave your horse feeling refreshed and relaxed. In addition to witch hazel, its herbal ingredients include two classics for enhanced circulation: rosemary and lavender. The same herbal ingredients are also found in Sore No-More Gelotion, and can be added to a brace, although most owners prefer applying the thicker (corn-based xanthum gum), spill-free option for
It is also important to give a horse a day off every third or fourth day, says Debra J. Hagstrom, MS Extension Horse Specialist with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "If you exercise them every day, without a day off, you could create a situation where your horse becomes chronically fatigued, which may result in fatigue-related lameness or depress their immunity, making them more susceptible to illness."
A fatigued horse is more prone to soft tissue injury because their stride may be less controlled, resulting in interference, stumbling or tripping. "When the quality and consistency of movement is compromised the horse is fatigued, the end result of fatigue is often lameness or, at a minimum, significant soreness," says Hagstrom.
Building a great relationship with your horse includes helping them feel great before and after working together. Here are some tips to accomplishing that.
• Roll a tennis ball in a cooling liniment or gelotion like Sore No-More and use it for leverage while working out tight muscles
• For a tight/sore poll, wear a halter with a headpiece soaked in the liniment
• Apply under a hot towel to warm-up/loosen cold muscles
• Use under ice for a new trauma or bruise
• Under wraps and bandages, or with magnets or ceramic fiber therapy
• As a brace when added to bath water
• Rub on the back prior to saddling (contains no added oils so tack won't slip)
• Painted on the soles of hooves to help ease stone bruises
And just what did the University of Bristol discover about jet lag and equine athletes? That, unlike humans, a change in time zone can lead to even better performance!
All the more reason to keep muscles and soft tissue warmed up and cooled down, because this is one athlete who doesn't let a little thing like jet lag break their stride.
For more information on Sore No-More products, visit www.equilite.com.