Many horse owners use ice boots on their horses after exercise to help slow swelling and kickstart recovery. But should you continue to use ice boots for horses in winter? This blog explores why using ice boots after exercise, even in winter, may be beneficial to your horse.
Why Ice a Horse’s Legs After Exercise?
Exercise is said to cause tiny tears – known as micro trauma – to the soft tissues in your horse’s legs. Routine icing after exercise can help minimise the inflammation that occurs as a result of this micro trauma.
Applying ice and compression after exercise constricts the blood vessels, which flushes waste products out of the affected tissues. Icing also decreases metabolic activity, which slows inflammation. Furthermore, ice and compression reduces swelling and tissue breakdown. When the ice and compression is removed, the horse’s legs begin to warm up again. As a result, blood flow increases, which delivers oxygen to the area and helps to kickstart the healing process.
This in turn can help to protect against injuries of the lower leg, because the soft tissues are being allowed to recover better between exercise sessions. It is already common practice in many equine disciplines to ice the lower legs after exercise and competitions.
The Impact of Boots and Bandages on Your Horse’s Legs
Exercise – particularly intense exercise – causes your horse’s legs to heat up. Furthermore, many horse riders use boots or bandages on their horses’ legs during exercise. This may be to protect the legs from knocks or overreach, or they may be used to support the horse’s legs.
Unfortunately, boots and bandages can have an unwanted side-effect in that they insulate the legs and cause them to heat up even more. This only adds to the impact of heat on your horse’s soft tissues as the temperature of your horse’s tendons can reach dangerous levels. This can lead to tendon cell death.
This is not to say that boots or bandages should never be used. There are many instances in which the benefits of using boots or bandages (or the risks of not using them) outweigh the drawbacks. However, additional consideration should be taken to ensure your horse’s legs are allowed to cool down properly.
Can You Use Ice Boots for Horses in Winter?
So, we understand how icing and cold therapy can benefit your horse by kickstarting the recovery process. We also know that the additional heat generated by using boots or bandages during exercise may also negatively impact your horse’s soft tissues. But should you continue to ice your horse’s legs in the winter when it’s cold anyway?
Horses’ legs have mechanisms that help to protect them from the cold. Below the knees and hocks, the horse’s legs are made up mostly of bones and tendons, tissues that don’t freeze easily. The horse’s blood circulation patterns can also adjust to preserve body warmth. This means that, even in colder temperatures, the horse’s legs are likely to still heat up during exercise. When you add exercise boots or bandages to the mix, the legs are likely to heat up even more.
Therefore, it is likely to be beneficial to use ice boots for horses in winter after exercise. This is because ice boots can provide your horse’s legs with that extra hit of cold, which helps to kickstart the recovery process.
Purchase Cryochaps Ice Boots for Horses
Cryochaps ice boots for horses provide both ice and compression to help kickstart the post-exercise recovery process. Cryochaps are practical to use, even in winter, because you can simply wet the horse’s leg, wrap and strap the ice boot and allow it to get to work. This is much more practical than standing on an icy yard with a hosepipe! You can purchase Cryochaps K2F ice boots as a single wrap, pair of ice wraps or a full quad set.