Thehorse.com - Full Article
by: Heather Smith Thomas
August 01 2008, Article # 12787
Whether your horse has downtime for an injury or just a much-needed vacation, how you bring him back can dictate his eventual competitive success.
After any layup an athletic horse needs to be brought back to peak condition gradually. If time off was simply a vacation over winter, you can start the horse back into work at a lower level and increase the length and intensity of workouts. At the same time you must adjust the horse's feed as needed to address present body condition (too thin or too fat) as well as nutrient requirements for the increased work. If, however, the layoff was due to illness or injury, the horse might need a more careful return to fitness.
In this article we'll address a variety of reasons your horse might have been away from activity, whether for a short time or longer period. We'll also offer you advice from experts on steps to take that will allow you to safely bring your horse back to peak condition.
A horse that's been in shape before can be brought back to fitness more quickly/easily than a green horse can be conditioned for the first time, but the process still requires a fine-tuned feel for each horse's abilities and how much and how soon to increase his work.
Barney Fleming, DVM, of Custer, S.D., has been involved with endurance horses for many years, and he says some of the important considerations when reconditioning a horse are proper warm-up and cool-down, gradual increase in work (which includes climbing hills for developing peak cardiovascular fitness and wind), and making sure the horse always has enough water during long workouts to prevent dehydration.
"Warm-up can be brisk walking, alternating with a trot, or moving in circles to limber muscles and tendons," he says. Five to 10 minutes of warm-up gets the heart rate elevated a little, increases circulation to muscles, and increases respiration rate in preparation for faster work. A warm-up increases oxygen intake for muscles, stretches the tendons, and stimulates natural lubrication of joints to prevent injuries...
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