Maintaining your Equine Athlete’s muscle health is important all year round for performance and his overall physical health and well-being. But throughout the year many factors- including weather and temperature- are changing and potentially impacting muscle health.
With fall upon us, temperatures are dropping all across the country… Ok, ok, yes, I see how calling 50′ in California “cold” makes us seem like delusional cry babies, but we have to cope with earthquakes, fire “season”, and chronic drought, so have a little mercy on our sub-zero aversions! ;)
If you live in a climate with even more extreme temperatures than that, it’s especially important to make sure you are doing everything you can to maintain your Equine Athlete’s muscle health.
Why Does Cold Weather Effect My Horse’s Muscle Health?
During exercise in the cold, your horse’s muscles require more energy at a faster rate in order for them to function as they would under less extreme conditions.
The ambient temperature effects the temperature of your horse’s muscles, and both thus greatly affects the muscles’ ability to contract. This can leave muscles more vulnerable to fatigue and strains, as cold muscles are less elastic and don’t absorb shock or impact as well as warm muscles. Cold muscles are also less responsive to signals from the nervous system so movements are less coordinated.
How Can I Help Manage My Horse’s Muscles During Cold Weather?
Training in the cold cannot always be avoided, especially when preparing for a sunny show season just around the corner! But providing your horse an adequate warmup can help you achieve optimal muscle contraction while you wait for warmer weather to arrive.
In addition to taking adequate time to start your workout with ample walking and suppleness exercises, incorporating a daily-use massage tool like EquiStix is an awesome way to make sure your horse is getting that extra oxygen he needs delivered just where he needs it.
EquiStix helps increase circulation and elasticity to muscles, making it a fabulous pre-workout addition for cold weather.
As an extra bonus, it can help calm nerves that many horse’s experience from spending extra time in a stall and those excitement jitters they seems to store up just for blustery days!
What About Post-Workout Muscle Health?
Not only are your horse’s muscles still extremely vulnerable to injury, but blood is generally moving slower and being supplied to vital organs first. This means (as mentioned earlier) that cold muscles get less oxygen, making it more difficult for your horse’s body to remove waste products like carbon dioxide and lactic acid. The cooldown and recovery process thus becomes especially vital during cold temperatures.
Additionally, depending on how the winter months have effected your horse’s overall health, the cool-down is very important to making sure your Equine Athlete’s body is not under extra stress, as well as making sure he is dry to prevent additional health risks.
EquiSitx is the icing on the cake to speed the recovery process, eliminate excess lactic acid build up, and continue aiding circulation.
What Other Factors Should I Consider?
Of course, daily-use massage tools and adequate walking are not the only things that ensure proper muscle maintenance during cold weather.
Nutrition:All horse owners are aware of the extra wooden leg our horses seem to sprout during winder months; hay bill sky high?? What gives??
Ever noticed that your horse’s top line or hip seems just a little more lack-luster in winter? Diet and nutrition are extremely important to maintaining muscle during cold temperatures (remember how we mentioned it takes more energy to fuel muscles in the cold?). Your horse knows this, and it’s why he tries to eat you out of house and home.
Especially in cold weather, that roughly 30-minute window after training is very important to refuel muscles. It’s simple; proper nutrition aids in faster recovery, and in turn helps avoid injury.
And dont forget how important hydration is to muscle health! Although cold weather can depress feelings of thirst, your horse’s body and muscles still need it. Dehydration is still very much a threat in cold weather. The same goes for you, rider!! So don’t forget to get your daily dose too while your body is working over time to keep you warm.
Your personal grooming and clipping preferences are just that – your own. But, don’t forget that winter grooming can play a vital role in horse health. A horse with a thick winter coat may be harder to cool down properly, just as a clipped horse may have a harder time warming up and maintaining muscle. Make sure that know how to handle the pros and cons of each situation this winter so you can keep your Equine Athlete healthy and happy. For more info and great tips on this subject, visit our friends at ProEquine Grooms.
Happy winter riding!