Although it’s a good idea to rest your horse the day after a tough competition or particularly taxing trail ride, that doesn’t mean you can take the day off from caring for him, too. In fact, on the day after exertion your horse may need more attention then usual.
• Give him plenty of room to move. Heavily worked muscles will stiffen up if a horse is confined. Keep him turned out in a good-sized paddock with friendly herdmates for as much of the day as you can. If turnout isn’t an option, hand-walk him for at least 20 minutes several times that day.
• Check his hydration levels. In addition to making clean, clear water available, do a quick skin-pinch test and check his capillary refill time to ensure your horse is not dehydrated.
• Watch for signs of digestive trouble. A disrupted feeding schedule or the stress of travel can lead to gut malfunction. Be alert for signs of colic, such as rolling, sweating or agitation, as well as diarrhea or dry/decreased manure production. Call your veterinarian if you suspect your horse isn’t well.
• Inspect his legs for bumps and swelling. Minor strains and other injuries can flare up the day after they occur. Go over your horse’s legs thoroughly. You may also want to jog him out to check for soundness.
• Make sure he can get some shut-eye. Just like people, horses can become sleep deprived. Make sure your horse has a comfortable quiet area, away from herd bullies but with a favored companion, to stretch out and snooze if he’d like.