Lesson 4: Cool-down!
You arrived at the barn or horse show, warmed-up before getting on your horse (see Part 3), finished your ride and now you need to cool yourself down.
Why is a cool-down important?
Facilitates the recovery process and allows the body to adapt to the training stress, which will ultimately improve performance in the long term.
Can help to decrease delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Particularly if you have had an extended break from riding.
Reduces muscular tension and helps with muscle symmetry and avoidance of muscular length differences or postural changes.
Adding static type stretches helps to prevent gradual muscle shortening over time (especially for the muscles that are in a constant shortened state due to the rider’s position in the saddle).
As with a proper warm-up, the cool-down can decrease the risk of injury, by ensuring adequate joint mobility and muscle length.
Allows you to take the time to reflect on the goals you set for yourself during your warm-up. How did your lesson or class go? Did you maintain focus? Would you have done anything differently? What are your goals for your next ride.
Components of a cool-down?
Your cool-down will typically consist of static style movements or stretches. These are a series of movements around a joint that occur slowly (not at the speed of activity). These stretches should follow the ‘5 Golden Rules’
Isolate the muscle group you want to stretch
Find zero tension
Less is best – gentle initial load ( the muscle will initially contract, so load gently to allow the muscle to relax)
Allow loss of tension – gentle and steady load until tension is gone
Cannot be timed – use biofeedback! Stop when you feel the tension decrease significantly or disappear. (Stark, S.D. (2009). The stark reality of stretching)
Try this cool-down after your next ride:
Hip Flexor Lunge Stretch
With the legs in a lunge position.
Lower the back knee toward the floor
Tuck bum under and tilt hips/pelvis up toward your chest
To lengthen through the upper body you can raise both hands up over your head
Repeat on other side
Tension should be felt in the front of the extended leg
Standing Hamstring Stretch
Lift one leg and place on tack box or other elevated surface
Stand tall, try to keep knee straight
Lean forward to increase the intensity of the stretch
Tension should be felt in the back of the thigh