Grooming to make a difference

Here are some handy tips when grooming your endurance horse.
Issue date:6 February 2009

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Here are some handy tips when grooming your endurance horse. When grooming at night, it’s a good idea to bring your horse in at a relatively slow pace, no faster than a medium to slow trot over the last few kilometres. Even walk in the last 500m. This will let the muscles cool down.
Throw a woollen rug or sweat sheet over the horse as you take the saddle off. This will let some heat escape, but not fast enough to cause cramping. Always have warm drinking water available. With a damp, warm sponge clean dirt and sweat from your horse, then take a dry towel and rub it down. Walk it a few strides and check its pulse.
Dropping your sweat rug or blanket on the ground will make it cold and damp. Remember that cold air and moisture rise from the ground in the early morning.

Grooming during the day
During the ride your horse will become hungrier. Let it eat after vetting, and if you’re concerned about gut sounds let it eat a small amount beforehand. It’s a good idea to moisten the feed.
The rule with electrolytes is simple. If your horse is drinking, give it electrolytes. Never prevent a horse from drinking! You can also make a warm bran mash with electrolytes and a small amount of molasses and honey, and this should always be available for your horse when grooming after an endurance ride. Use 1kg bran, 120g electrolytes, 10ml apple cider vinegar, 10g molasses, two tablespoons honey and enough warm water to make the mash damp, but not soggy.
Never put cold water on a hot horse. The horse’s pores will close so it retains the heat you’re trying to remove. Start with lukewarm water and move to cold. Always dry the horse, or the water will just get warm and increase the heat problem. But you can use cold water on the lower legs.
It is essential that you pick out feet at every vet check. Rather put a new nail in a shoe before departure than not depart on the next leg.

Wash, scrape and walk
Heat and lactic acid drive the heart rate up. Horses cool themselves by keeping the large surface area of the skin wet with sweat and letting the breeze cool it, which in turn cools the blood. During heat stress, the heart works very hard to pump overheated blood into the skin for cooling. Only when the body’s internal thermostat detects the right core temperature will the heart rate drop.
An endurance horse that’s working hard will keep accumulating lactic acid in its muscles even after it’s stopped working. The longer it stands the more lactic acid will accumulate. If you allow a horse to stand still while cooling with water, the heart rate will drop, but the minute the horse moves, the muscle contractions will push the lactic acid into the bloodstream, forcing the heart rate to spike.
The solution is the wash-scrape-walk technique, which helps remove lactic acid from the muscles. Manual stimulation of the muscles means the horse doesn’t have to make any effort! Once the lactic acid is out of the system, the heart rate will stabilise.
Contact Kim Dyson on 082 888 6511.     |fw

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