Thoroughbred Times April 18, 1994
Excerpted from "Training Tips"

Speeding Recovery

Getting a horse to come out of a race in good shape requires pre- and post-race planning

by Tom Ivers

Avoiding overheating

More often than not, the core temperature of your horse's body is going to soar over 104 degrees during and after a race, especially in hot, wet weather, and if there is no warm down. It is worse if all the hard workouts have been in the cool early morning and the horse has not been acclimated to hard work in higher temperatures. The symptoms of overheating are agitation in the stall after the race, going off feed for a few days, and loose bowels with accompanying dehydration.

One possible solution to this problem is the introduction to the nutrition of an additive containing gut flora, the bugs that help the horse digest his feed. When core temperatures overload, these flora are killed off, and digestive upset results. There are many products designed to reapply lactobacillus and other flora. These products include Snap Back and Accel, a product manufactured by Vita-Flex which also contains branched-chain amino acids.

Above all, recovery is best supported by a complete, balanced, and sufficient grain ration. It is a mistake to rely on hay to provide much nutrition in high-performance horses. Nor can you stuff enough plain oats into a horse to get adequate carbohydrate delivery. Your best bet is a commercially prepared sweet feed with balanced electrolytes and micronutrients. With such a mix, you can then add just a topping or two to pick up missing ingredients - some amino acids, gut flora, anti-oxidant vitamins, etc. A deficient ration supplemented by an entire laboratory of exotic additives is not the solution.

If you have a scale in your barn, one of the best ways to determine the rate of recovery of your horse is to watch how long it takes for the horse to gain back his racing weight. He will lose anywhere from 25-to-40 pounds in a race, and when that is regained, he is likely ready to roll again. If you suspect severe muscle damage has occurred, blood tests that look at muscle enzyme levels of CPK, LDH, and SGOT will tell you a lot about the rate of recovery.

Tom Ivers is an exercise physiologist who has written six books on training. He is presently training horses for a private stable in Washington state.