Five Step Post-Competition Horse Care Routine: Ensuring Peak Performance and Well-Being

Photo by Adam Hill.

BY Isabella Littlejohn

Competition places significant physical demands on our wonderful equine partners. The right post-competition care routine is key to support their recovery, maintain their overall health, and ensure their continued success. We’ve outlined a great five step routine that is integral to an effective post-competition recovery. The routine includes: the 15-minute cool-down walk, thorough inspection and wash, leg icing, poultice or liniment, and packing of the horse’s feet. Understanding the importance and benefits of these steps will enable you to optimize your horse’s well-being and enhance and prolong their performance in future events.

Step 1: 15-Minute Cool-Down Walk

After a demanding competition, it is essential to gradually decrease your horse’s heart rate and cool down their muscles. A 15-minute cool-down walk allows their body temperature to stabilize and helps prevent muscle stiffness. This low-intensity exercise promotes circulation, which helps flush out toxins and lactic acid buildup, reducing the risk of post-competition soreness and fatigue. In addition to the physical benefits, the 15-minute cool-down walk also helps horses to mentally relax after competition. 

Step 2: Thorough Inspection and Wash

Performing a comprehensive check-over of your horse is crucial to identify any potential injuries or signs of strain. This can be incorporated while the horse gets untacked. Carefully examine their legs, joints, and hooves for heat, swelling, cuts, or abrasions. Addressing any issues immediately will prevent them from escalating and will ensure timely veterinary attention, if required. So many issues can be easily fixed if noticed soon enough. Following the inspection, give your horse a bath to remove sweat and dirt, promoting skin and coat health. 

Step 3: Leg Icing

The intense physical wear and tear during competition can lead to inflammation and strain on your horse’s legs. Applying ice therapy boots post-competition significantly reduces swelling and inflammation. Ice therapy constricts blood vessels, which limits the accumulation of excess fluids and minimizes tissue damage. Ice boots should be applied for about 20 minutes to alleviate any discomfort and promote recovery.

Step 4: Poultice or Liniment

After icing, the application of poultice or liniment provides additional therapeutic benefits. Poultice contains natural clays or cooling agents that help draw out heat and inflammation and soothing sore muscles and tendons. Liniments, on the other hand, contain stimulating ingredients that promote increased circulation, further aiding in recovery and reducing stiffness. Carefully follow the instructions provided with these products and consult with your veterinarian for guidance on selecting the best option for your horse.

Step 5: Packing the Horse’s Feet

Last but not least, packing the horse’s feet is the last step in this post-competition care routine. This step involves applying hoof packing to the bottom of each hoof, or just the front hooves and covering it with vet wrap or shavings to keep it in place. This practice helps prevent the development of abscesses, bruising, and other foot-related issues that can arise due to the strenuous activity associated with competitions. Packing the horse’s feet helps maintain hoof health and comfort for the horse.

Post-competition routines do not have to be complicated, just effective. Implementing this thorough, yet simple post-competition horse care routine is crucial for the well-being and performance of your equine partner. Each step plays a significant role in promoting recovery, reducing the risk of injuries, maintaining peak physical condition, and ensuring the horse’s comfort. Remember, a well-cared-for horse is a happy and high-performing horse.