18 Jun 2021
recovery in horses

7 Steps to Quicker Recovery in Competition Horses

recovery in horses


It is competition season and quicker recovery in competition horses (and riders) after an intense training session or competitive event, is critical in limiting damage caused by inflammation.

Any kind of intense exercise naturally creates stress in the body, especially around areas of impact, such as joints and soft tissues of the distal limbs.  This leads to naturally occurring inflammation and acts as a healing mechanism to accelerate repair in case of infection or injury.  This can be helpful in areas with very low blood supply – such as cartilage, tendons, and ligaments.

Nevertheless, long-term inflammation in healthy structures or chronic (old) injuries can create tissue damage and pain.

These steps, taken both before and after a high-intensity workout or performance, will speed up recovery and reduce the likelihood of illness or injury in competition horses.


Step 1:  Correct Conditioning

Laying the foundation for optimal recovery in competition horses begins well before the session or event itself.

  • Horses should be properly conditioned for its level of training and competing.
  • Physical training should be at 80% of the intensity of the targeted event.
  • Maintaining a consistent training program will not only yield better performance in competition, but will also assist in smoother recovery and reduced likelihood of illness or injury.


Step 2:  Nutrition

How you feed your competition horse is as important as what you feed and can influence his ability to successfully train and compete at intense levels.

Timing of meals, as well as choice of feed prior to exercise, can influence performance and recovery.

  • Large meals just prior to exercise can make it harder to maintain adequate hydration during exercise, create increased weight to displace, and possibly interfere with lung expansion and breathing.
  • A lower sugar content, forage-based meal fed more than three hours before exercise, will better provide energy to your horse’s muscles when it’s needed.


Step 3: Hydration

The hotter and more humid the climate, the more water and electrolytes are lost during strenuous exercise.

  • Fresh, plain water should always be available before and after exercise or competing.
  • Adding loose salt or electrolyte supplements to the diet prior to transport can help ensure your horse drinks well on the road and arrives to the competition well hydrated.
  • Supplementation with electrolytes that contain the building blocks of proteins after hard exercise, is easily absorbed by muscles and immediately replenish energy stores. These can be fed directly in a paste or powder formula to provide essential nutrition to depleted muscle tissue without the work of digesting a meal.


Step 4: Supplements

Free radicals are naturally generated as muscle breaks down energy for contraction.  In competition horses, this is a frequent occurrence.

  • Excess free radicals create inflammation and cause damage to the muscles.
  • Antioxidants can help restore balance inside muscle tissue.
  • To counter the harmful effects of free radicals, supplementation with antioxidants such as vitamin E, C and selenium has proven effective.


Step 5:  Warm-up

Warming up your competition horse at optimum levels gradually conditions the muscles, joints, and soft tissue.

  • Steadily increasing the intensity in a warm-up session slowly stimulates heart and lungs to prepare for the pending high demand.
  • A slow rise in blood flow to the large muscle groups maintains higher delivery of oxygen throughout the horse’s body during peak training exercises.
  • This reduces the accumulation of by-products such as lactic acid or excessive heat.


Step 6:  Cool down

A proper cool down time of competition horses after training or competing is very important, even more so during the hotter summer months.

  • Measures such as heart rate, respiratory rate and rectal temperature should be taken before and after exercise as part of the regular training process to develop a normal baseline to work from.
  • Slow, steady walking until the horse’s respiratory rate and body temperature has come down to normal helps maintain the necessary blood flow to the larger hindquarter and topline muscles.
  • Monitor breathing and temperature for up to 10 minutes after exercise.
  • Aim to walk your horse until his rectal temperature has reduced at least 2 degrees from what it was at the completion of the ride.
  • When your horse’s breathing has properly recovered, he will no longer flare his nostrils and will not use his belly to breathe.


Step 7:  Additional care & therapy

  • For an overheated horse, rapid cooling with buckets of chilled water is essential, ideally while he is still walking.
  • No need to scrape the water off!
  • As the horse recovers, the water coming off your horse will no longer be hot.
  • Additional measures such as access to shade or misting fans will be helpful.
  • Ice and cold therapy are very effective in reducing inflammation in joints and soft tissue after strenuous activity and promotes recovery.

According to Dr David Marlin, esteemed equine scientist, there are two valid approaches when it comes to cooling your horse down with water:


EVAPORATION Per litre, the complete evaporation of 1 litre of sweat or water removes 13x more heat than 1 litre of ice-water BUT evaporation takes 10-15x longer to remove the heat.

Used to keep horses cool.


CONDUCTION  Per litre, Ice-Cold water (0-5°C) removes heat faster than evaporation of 1 litre of water or sweat.

Used to rapidly cool down the horse.


Extra:  Rider recovery

  • Core strength exercises as part of a regular fitness routine will assist in keeping the rider’s body in the best physical shape to perform at a competition.
  • At the event, staying hydrated for efficient body and brain function is critical.
  • Aid recovery by replacing electrolytes and essential vitamins depleted by sweating.
  • Riders who may struggle to eat before they compete, could eat a carbohydrate-rich supper the night before to top up energy levels in muscles for competition day.
  • After competing, a high-protein, high carbohydrate meal will assist in replenishing spent energy reserves.


ELITE EQUINE Organic Rosehip for quicker recovery in competition horses

Kirsten Mayne, international dressage rider, has been supplementing her competition horses with Elite Equine for a while now.

One of her horses, Risa de Susaeta, recently became 2020 MCI National Young Horse Champion and Kirsten shared her thoughts on Elite Equine:

“We started using Elite Equine with the mare Risa de Susaeta to help her recovery after competing and exercise. I find the horses that are on the rosehip benefit from quicker recovery time, and this helps reduce risk of injuries.

We have used this product for a while now with several horses and find it works on all types of horses.

We are very grateful that Risa is part of the Elite Equine team.”

– Kirsten Mayne


To learn more, or to request your FREE* Elite Equine organic rosehip sample, contact [email protected]


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For more information, contact +44 79 51 999 235

Monday to Friday, 9am – 5pm

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The information provided on this site is for information purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician, veterinarian, or other healthcare provider.






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