Jul 06, 2016
Time and again we see vision of sports professionals wading in the ocean post-match or workout, so what are the technical benefits of this practice and does the same principle apply to racehorses?
A study published by Sports Medicine Australia in the May 2009 issue of The Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, compared the effectiveness of cold water, hot/cold contrast water immersion and no recovery treatment as recovery methods in the 48 hour period following simulated team sport exercise.
The study results showed cold water immersion proved itself as a superior recovery method.
“Cold water immersion resulted in significantly lower muscle soreness ratings;
reduced inflammatory response and consequent muscle damage; and better repeat
sprint ability and leg strength,” explained one of the authors of the paper, Body Logic Physiotherapy’s Jeremy Ingram.
“Hot/cold contrast water immersion demonstrated little recovery benefit other than a
slight reduction in muscle soreness 24 hours post-exercise. Therefore to maintain peak performance, coaches and athletes should utilize cold water immersion as a recovery technique.”
As further explained in the paper, the theory behind cold water immersion relates to the fact that intense exercise causes tiny tears in muscle fibers. This micro trauma not only stimulates muscle cell activity and helps repair the damage and strengthen the muscles, but it is also linked with delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which occurs a day or two after exercise. Cold water therapy is thought to constrict blood vessels and flush waste products (such as lactic acid), and reduce swelling and tissue breakdown.
Snowden Racing also believes in this form of recovery and will often take their equine athletes to Sydney’s Botany Bay, however the excursion is also used to freshen up the mind set and exercise their team.
“It’s a small but important key element for us and we see real benefits in taking our horses to the beach,” explained co-trainer Paul Snowden.
“Not only do we think it helps their recovery from raceday, it gives us a chance to mix up their training environment and keep them stimulated mentally.
“With a tired horse it could help prolong their preparation or in the case of an out of form horse, it can often leave them with a spring in their step afterwards.
“Horses are similar to humans in that a change in routine and exercise every now and then is great and let’s be honest, who doesn’t feel better after a dip in the ocean!”
Like many athletes, going to the beach is also ideal for horses with injury or returning from injury as it provides the option to exercise without the full brunt of weight coming down on their fine legs.
“The beach is perfect as part of a horses’ rehabilitation as we wade or push them through the cold salt water. You’d be surprised how quickly they build up a sweat, it’s definitely an effective tool for exercise.
“Summer and spring time we’ll go twice a week, and our schedule during the cooler months is usually weather permitting. Not only do the horses love but so do our staff,” added Snowden.
Words: Sarah Peatling & Paul Snowden
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