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Discipline: LD/Endurance, CMO, Trail Rider, Cartoonist, Writer, Co-Director/ Green Bean Endurance

April 21, 2010

Here's a topic I've not seen addressed

...not in the endurance news, or any of the blogs I visit. It seems natural that when you stretch a horse's distance you are going to have some muscle soreness, and even some post-ride stiffness. So how do you avoid having your horse's muscles stiffen up after a ride. Though Phebes came through this ride okay, I'm sure she was muscle sore and stiff post ride (next day, day after that). Is this the point of a week of rest post ride? To just let everything heal, repair, and get back to normal? Since Phebes can't talk, I've based this on her behavior (grumpiness, head twirling, and checkng where the horse trailer is daily). Also I base it on HOW BAD I FELT when she did 99% of the work.

How do you address your horse's post ride needs, especially novice horses?



  1. Others may have more experience with this, but in all honesty, my horses are never sore after a ride (conditioning or the "real deal"). Or, if they are, it's nothing that I can "push on" and get a reaction.

    My mare used to have occasional filling in the front fetlocks early on, and would sometimes take a first few stiff steps after being tied to the trailer all night, but that was it. If one of my horses were to be VISIBLY sore after a ride, whether it be conditioning or "the real deal," I would be concerned.

    When I am done with an endurance ride, I want my horse to look as though he's done nothing. That's always my goal. Having a sore horse is completely the opposite of that. If my horse were sore, I would assume I had ridden too fast/hard, or my horse was not prepared for that distance or terrain.

    My horses occasionally look tired after a ride, but not in pain. My version of tired is a ratty looking coat, a leg cocked, not too interested in eating (at least not yet), and not too concerned about what's going on around him (or her). He or she might also be slow to walk off and trotting elicits a pinched lip and flattened ears. Beyond those signs, I'm a bit worried.

    If you can easily see stiffness or can easily elicit a reaction from soreness, your horse might not be adequately prepared for the distance or difficulty of the ride. Just my opinion, take it with the proverbial grain of salt. :0)

  2. After a really tough ride that sassy and i did last year we put her heavy blanket on to keep her warm, so not to stiffen up. We also walk her every hour to keep the muscles from really getting stiff and tight.

  3. I turn him out in the pasture. He will move as much as he is comfortable. I don't do anything else, except keep an eye on him. NO bute etc., as that could hide any real sore issues, and if the bute made him feel "better", he may over do something in the pasture, and cause more damage.

  4. "My horses occasionally look tired after a ride, but not in pain. My version of tired is a ratty looking coat, a leg cocked, not too interested in eating (at least not yet), and not too concerned about what's going on around him (or her). He or she might also be slow to walk off and trotting elicits a pinched lip and flattened ears. "

    That comment pretty much describes her immediate post ride reaction. We haven't had any gait abnormality, and no palpable pain. I do think that the hills were way worse than I could have ever anticipated in training. (But I know now) Even though we drove up there and trained twice, we never got that far north on the trail to know what kind of terrain was going to be coming at us. Where I feel she is a little tight is that long muscle on the back of the leg which would have everything to do with pulling up those monster hills. She's not reactive when I rub at it, or anywhere else on her body. So what I'm perceiving as "sore" horse, may indeed be "tired" horse. She is still on R&R until Friday, then we will have a slow ride, stretch things out, and see how that goes.

    As for the rider? I'm still a little gimpy :(


  5. oh oh oh *raises hand* pick me! pick me!

    At the horse's first couple of rides I make a point to get up several times during the night and hand walk them for 10-15 minutes the night after the race. I'll also do this after a particularly tough race like Tevis. I actually had a crew member assigned to walk Farley every 1.5-2 hours after Tevis (except if they went to get her and she was asleep - then they were to leave her alone).

    I must admit that once I did a couple of 50's on her, I don't get up at night and handwalk her any more after a 50.

    If it's a long ride home and she's well hydrated, I'll give her a gram of bute before trailering home the next morning if I think she's a bit sore.

  6. BTW - I really feel strongly that if your horse is sore (and I agree with a previous commentors goal that the goal is for them NOT to be sore) and there is inflammation that it should be taken care of. I used to be of the mind set that the pain kept the horse from over doing something, but after attending numerous vet clinics and lectures and seeing the damage that inflammation does, I am now of the mind set that inflammation and the pain associated should be controlled as much as possible. I think it is unlikely that the horse will over do it (which is the mindset of my vets), and you are preventing damage. Which is why, after a hard ride, if she's well hydrated and acting a bit stiff, I'll give her a gram of bute. I aslo have a tube of Surpass that I will use (with my vet's blessing) on her healed bow or splint after a tough ride *just in case*.

    I dont' usually do any bute etc (or even wrap legs) until I've decided whether there is an issue. If I'm not sure whether there is an issue I don't do anything, just observe.

  7. "My horses occasionally look tired after a ride, but not in pain. My version of tired is a ratty looking coat, a leg cocked, not too interested in eating (at least not yet), and not too concerned about what's going on around him (or her). He or she might also be slow to walk off and trotting elicits a pinched lip and flattened ears. "

    I would also take these signs as an indication of soreness, or definitely a horse that needs a bit of time off. Especially the parts about slow to walk off or looking uncomfortable trotting. This to me is a horse that was stressed from the ride and needs some additional time to recover before going back to work.

    Just like with us riders, the best things we can do to speed post ride recovery is to keep them hydrated and moving. Continuing to give post-ride electrolytes is important, to further encourage drinking. Fluids are going to help continue to flush the lactic acid from their system.

    If you have access to a pasture or large turn out, perfect. Keep an eye on how much their moving around and make sure they're not just hanging around in one spot. Unfortunatley my horse is in a small corral, but the upside is that this forces both of us to get out and go for a nice easy walk the few days following a ride. I usually take him out for about 10 minutes of vigorous walking and then graze for another 30 minutes or so.

    Some horses are more prone to certain post ride issues than others. I've noticed that Diego's legs will fill easily, so with him I'll need to be more aggressive about iceing, wraps, and poltice than I was with Sinatra. It's that fine line though between wanting to be able to monitor HOW the stress affected his legs withOUT doing all that stuff (to gauge future performance) and wanting to prevent those symptoms. I haven't mentally decided on how best I'm going to approach this yet.

    Other things you can do to help make Phoebes (and you) feel better can include a nice liniment bath, massage and stretching (I'm a BIG proponent of both of these), and some arnica and/or Sore No More.

  8. So it is NOT unusual for a performance horse to feel tired, or a little sore after an extreme effort such as (LD, Endurance).

    The treatments would include:


    *Low dose post ride Bute

    *Massage &/or stretching

    *Turn out


    Anything else?

    And when you are traveling to a trail you haven't ridden before, how can you perfectly prepare for that trail? I mean you can address what you think you will face, and ride conservatively, but you can't always know. I had no idea of the extreme nature of the hills we were facing, and in fact would have chosen a different ride day had I known how difficult the terrain was going to be (Sat.&Sun ride took a shorter, different trail). ~E.G.

  9. It's a crap shoot.....

    Usually I know whether a ride is sandy and flat/long hills, or rocky and hilly (steep).

    then I take a look at past ride results and look at the following factors:
    *what was the winning time
    *what was the average finish time
    *what was the pull rate

    I use these factors to decide how "hard" a ride is. If I'm looking a multiday I'll look at the different days in comparison.

    If loops stay mostly the same from year to year, you can ask past riders. For example, although it's not *exactly* the same trail at WW from year to year, I know that day 2 is the easiest day with the best footing, days 1 and 3 are tougher with more rocks.

    If I didn't know anyone who rode it last year and was worried, I would click on someone's name from the previous year finish list (probably someone from the middle fo the pack) whose name sounded vaugely familiar, look them up in the AERC directory and e-mail them.... :)

  10. Oops - didn't finish comment.

    Then, depending on the feedback I would know whether I needed to prepare for hills, rocks, or sand. If the feedback is that it's a moderate ride with no extremees, I wouldn't worry about doing any specific conditioning. If I got feedback there as a lot of deep sand, I would make a point to go visit the river or beach and do some walking in the sand.

    Since I regularly condition on hills and rocks, I only do terrain specific conditioning if I know that's it's a really sandy ride.

  11. Jacke - does your mind ever rest? You are always thinking about something new. I think that is great. I am the opposite. I tend to live more in the moment. But could learn a little lesson from you about planning/thinking ahead.

    Well as you know I am far from an expert.... A LITTLE soreness after a ride is a good thing. In order to get stronger you actually have to break down the muscles a little so they can build up to be stronger. BUT you need to give those muscles a couple of days to repair so definitely rest for a couple of days. (Learned this from Christine Marks and just other general conditioning info I've read for horses and humans.)

    I think you also want to really tune into your horse during the ride. I know for my two rides that I've done so far, I actually let Doc stop and rest during the ride and I even got off and walked when I felt like he was working too hard. Both of these are reasons that we took so much time, but as soon as I realized that the trails were tougher than we had trained for, my priority was making sure my horse finished with a positive experience. I didn't want him to dread an endurance ride because he starts to make a connection between the event and how miserable it was. Now you've seen Doc after his first 30 mile ride and even commented about how good he looked. I would say he was just as good after the Cave Country ride and that was MUCH tougher than the Spook Run ride. But I took both rides really, really slow once I knew how tough things were going to be.

    So I do think you can adjust your pace, get off your horse, and do what you need to do if you realize after the fact that you were not quite ready for a particular ride.

    I also heard Maureen telling people at this last ride to be sure to change up the gait on a ride and not just the pace - mix up trot and canter. She said it keeps the horses from getting to tired and tight as they use different muscles for both. I thought that was interesting as I don't think I've herad anyone emphasize that to me before. I do know that Doc generally prefers to trot, but I have noticed that when he gets a little tired, he sometimes prefers to canter. I sort of thought you might not want to as for some horses cantering is not as efficient, but it makes sense about using different muscle groups and how that might give your horse a break. So I think I will use that on my next ride. :-)

  12. Less is more. I'd shoot for 2 hill sessions a week with the longer ride, as you discribe with one caveat - get the first hill session in, but then if you don't get the 2nd (because of work, fatigue, whatever), don't stress about it and go for a pleasure ride instead 30-60 minutes. You are right in thinking your 30 counts significantly toward her training for her next race.

    LD's usually start second to the 50's at the rides I do.....when you talked about 50's passing you - now I understand why you had so many people passing you when you were at the back!