As you’re cruising through the finish line of the cross country course, hopefully with a clear round and big grin on your face, it’s time to start thinking about your horse’s recovery. After working hard around the course, they’ll have worked up a sweat, so the priority is to cool them down and get their heart rate back to normal.
From Finish Line to Lorry
Once you’re across the finish line, gradually come back to a walk in a straight line. Turning tightly or suddenly slowing down could unbalance them. Remember to stay aware of your surroundings as you finish because there will be other horses around you.
Once back at the lorry, untack and remove any studs. Take off your horse’s boots as quickly as possible too so that their legs can begin to cool down – using boots helps to protect the legs but can increase the risk of heat damage to the tendons. Try and opt for breathable boots wherever possible as this will increase airflow to the legs. This is also a good opportunity to check your horse’s legs for any nicks or cuts that may have occurred out on the course.
Wash off your horse with a hose or bucket and sponge – it’s a good idea to get this prepped before you head out XC, or you could persuade a friend to come and be your groom! On cooler days, you may only need to wash off where the tack has been but in hot weather, wash from top to toe. Scrape off the excess water and repeat the process if necessary.
Hosing the legs is a great way to manually cool them but not always convenient at an event. As an alternative, try sponging them with water or applying ice boots like the ARMA Hot/Cold Relief Boots. The gel packs in these boots can be frozen prior to the event or dipped in cold water just before use.
Offer your horse a drink and pop on a cooler rug if it’s feeling chilly while they are drying. Gently walk your horse around whilst their breathing returns to normal and they dry off.
After about twenty minutes, the ice boots can come off and he can stand quietly by the lorry. Check the results to see if you’ve won a rosette, and then you’re ready to head home. Once at home, keep an eye on your horse for any changes. Trot them up the following day to ensure they’re sound before going for a quiet hack or giving them a day off in the field to stretch their legs.
The only thing left to do is plan your next outing!