Preventing Delayed On-Set Muscle Soreness (DOMS) in horses
By Kirsty Haines
Wednesday 27 June 2012
Ever wondered how to prevent Delayed On-Set Muscle Soreness (DOMS) in horses? Chartered Veterinary Physiotherapist Kirsty Haines explains.
Being a bit gym phobic it's rare I experience this phenomenon (DOMS) myself these days, but I’ll bet there’s not many of us that haven’t woken up the morning after the day before and been a little stiff and sore. It tends to happen when we’ve done an activity we’re not used to or exerted ourselves beyond our comfort zones.
Well is not just us that can suffer Delayed On-Set Muscle Soreness or DOMS. Horses also show signs of over exertion, commonly stiffness, soreness, decreased movement following a strenuous activity or a step up in training.
You can be forgiven for thinking this is just a normal occurrence, a natural part of getting fit and, well, yes it is to some extent, but in some cases it can be quite severe. Cue a flash back to a days hunting on a very forward going pony. How I got off I don’t know and how I got up the next day can only be due to the marvel that is anti inflammatories!! And lots of fluids! I walked like a hunch back John Wayne for days!!!
Some horses exhibit mild symptoms (as we do) but for others they can be so stiff and sore that they appear to be tying up or colicking!
So what can you do to avoid Delayed On-Set Muscle Soreness (DOMS) in horses.
1. Plan ahead
You wouldn’t consider doing a 10K at the drop of a hat or swimming the channel to cool off, yet lots of owners push their horses to do, just one more. Whether that is one more round, one more test or mile of a ride, if your horse isn’t fit enough then he won’t perform to his best and you will risk injury because he has reached a point of fatigue.
Work backwards from the date of your planned event. Work out a plan of what you need to achieve each week up to D-Day, whether that be a single event or the start of the season.
2. Warm up and cool down
Whether it’s a long weekend ride or a competitive event, always give yourself time to warm your horse up in walk, trot and canter before asking for anything more. Use large circles, serpentines, leg yield and plenty of rein changes. And unless you have been advised otherwise by your Physio, general stretching PRE competition or ride is not advisable, leave it until after.
Always cool your horse down adequately, walk and trot until breathing and heart rate returns to normal after strenuous activity and allow him to stretch down on a long rein to finish. Time depends on the activity you have done but this allows him to flush out waste products more effectively from his muscles and reduces a build up which causes pain.
It can be hard to get your horse to drink when out and about but it’s worth spending time to encourage him. We know from human research that the slightest dehydration can affect concentration, performance, co-ordination and fatigue – not ideal when you’ve worked so hard to get your horse fit. When you reach for a drink, make a point of offering your horse one. Extra fluid will help his internal organs to process waste products more efficiently to prevent a build up.
Kirsty Haines MSc MCSP ACPAT Cat A is a Chartered Veterinary Physiotherapist practicing at Westfield Veterinary Physiotherapy, Tel: 0774 8788564, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Browse our horses for sale or place an ad on Horsemart now.