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After the Ride

Cooling, wrapping, walking, rest and observation are post-ride musts for endurance riders --and helpful for all who enjoy long trail rides with their horses

By Lisa Schneider - December 3rd, 2015 - Special Section

I’m not a veterinarian, but I have learned post-ride care over the years from some very experienced veterinarians and top endurance riders. I’ve carefully observed what long-term successful riders have done with their horses that enable those horses to compete year after year.
Keeping my horses sound and able to have long careers is more important to me than having one horse with a few brilliant performances but then is never seen again. Good post-ride care can nip a potential problem in the bud before it becomes a big deal.

Immediately After the Ride
Right after completing a ride, my No. 1 priority is metabolic stability. I provide lots of fresh water, good quality hay, wet mash, and whatever my horse is used to and has handled successfully in the past. My horse always seems to want whatever some other horse is eating, but since I don’t know what is in someone else’s feed, that might adversely affect my horse. I am pretty strict about what my horse gets to eat.
I closely monitor EDPP (Eating, Drinking, Peeing, Pooping) and use a stethoscope to take his pulse and monitor gut sounds about every 15 minutes, and especially right before going to the completion exam. I want to know how my horse is doing so I can correlate what the control judge is seeing with my own observations. I sometimes ice or use a cold water hose on my horse’s legs, after he has been done about 15 minutes, as long as it doesn’t cause him to stop eating or upset him (more on this later).

Focus on Legs
After doing the final completion exam and ensuring the horse is metabolically stable, I pay particular attention to my horse’s legs. Many people like to wrap the horse’s legs for support and to minimize inflammation after hard work. However, if you ask 10 people how to wrap legs, you’ll probably get 11 answers because wrapping is considered both an art and a science. There are lots of good techniques for wrapping legs, so if you don’t know how to wrap, ask an experienced rider who has kept one horse going for a long time.
I start by cooling down the legs. This can be done by standing the horse in a creek or hosing with cold water, or using ice boots. Twenty minutes is a good rule of thumb for how long to cool, and after that I apply either a poultice or liniment. There are a lot of good ones on the market so you might want to try different ones after long rides at home to see what works best on your horse. I like to use gloves to apply the poultice. I always tie up the horse’s tail before applying it—otherwise I end up covered with poultice and my horse’s tail looks like I threw paint at him.
Other options are to not use any poultice/liniment under the wrap and just use the wrap as support, or to use compression socks that you pull over the hooves on up the leg.
I use quilts over the poultice or liniment and finish with standing wraps over the quilts. This may seem like a lot of work after you’ve just ridden all day, and it is, but you can do some things to make it easier on yourself.
I’m a big believer in packing everything I can before I leave for the ride. Pre-packed items include hay bags, crew bags, zipper bags of feed to take in my cantle pack, and other zipper bags with pre-mixed mash so I just have to add water, and the leg wrap kit.
My leg wrap kit is a clear plastic bag that contains liniment, poultice, gloves, quilts, and standing wraps. It’s great to have it all in one place to just grab when needed instead of having to rummage through the trailer looking for individual items. Having it all together in a kit also makes it easier to replenish when you unpack at home.

The Night After the Ride
I like to hand walk my horse for 10 to 15 minutes every hour or so until bedtime. This not only keeps the horse loose but has the added benefit of lessening post-ride stiffness for the rider. I check EDPP and make sure his eye looks good. A dull eye is an indicator of impending problems, so I really pay attention to what my horse is telling me with his eyes.

The Day After the Ride
I leave the wraps on for no more than 24 hours. After removing them, I wash off the remaining poultice or liniment and look closely at each leg. I am looking for inflammation, heat, cuts, loose shoes or anything out of the ordinary. I want to see him EDPP well, with nice tight legs, a bounce in his step, and a bright eye. More hand walking is great and always helps both of us.

The Week After the Ride
Monitor EDPP. Daily hand walking is terrific but isn’t always possible so use turnout time or pasture if you’re lucky enough to have it to keep the horse moving around. This will lessen soreness and stiffness and speed up recovery time.

When to Resume Riding
Rest is probably the most overlooked phase in conditioning a horse for endurance. Lots of information is available about conditioning programs, but one of the most frequent questions I hear from riders new to the sport is this: “When should conditioning resume after an endurance ride?” There are several factors that I take into consideration and these include:
• effort
• distance ridden
• single day or multi-day.
I like to give my horses four to six weeks off after a 100-miler and about two weeks off after a 50-miler. I do just light rides towards the end of that rest period.
Of course, every horse is different and a horse with a lifetime of fitness will likely bounce back quicker than one that has just done his first 100-miler.
Post-ride care is a critical component of endurance riding. Making the extra effort to do things like cooling and wrapping legs after hard workouts, hand walking and rest, will pay off in the long run. As with most things in endurance, use whatever works best for you and your horse.
Happy trails!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Lisa Schneider of Agoura has been a competitive endurance rider since childhood. She has amassed more than 11,000 miles of endurance rides of 50 miles or longer, and another 1,750 miles of shorter “limited distance” rides of 25-35 miles. Lisa is vice president of the nonprofit American Endurance Ride Conference (http://www.aerc.org/). To request a free information packet about endurance riding, call 866-271-2372 or email aerc@foothill.net.

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