Cooling Strategies for Horse Legs: Comparing Horse Ice Boots and Equi-N-Ice Bandages

Posted on June 6, 2024 by Categories: Cryochaps, Uncategorized Tags: ,

Ensuring optimal recovery and performance in equine athletes often revolves around effective cooling strategies for their legs. Among the arsenal of cooling methods, horse ice boots and Equi-N-Ice bandages stand out as popular choices. But which of these cooling modalities is more scientifically effective? In this blog, we’ll explore the science behind both horse ice boots and Equi-N-Ice bandages to determine their efficacy in cooling horses’ legs.

The normal body temperature range of a healthy horse is between 37.5 and 38.5 °C and horses already use Conduction, Convection, Radiation and Evaporation to help cool them down. Horse leg temperatures get very hot when doing fast work or when the legs are enclosed in some non breathable exercise boots. Then it maybe advisable to help cool by adding an additional method.

The Science of Cooling:

Before delving into the comparison, it’s crucial to understand the underlying science of cooling horse legs. Cooling therapy serves to constrict blood vessels, reduce inflammation, and provide pain relief by numbing nerve endings.

What is termed effective cooling? Studies have shown that in order for the internal tissues and tendons to reach an optimum temperature of between 15-19 °C the external skin temperature has to be 10°C. It is logical to think that cool boots for horses require surface leg temperatures to drop to below 10°C.

How do Horse Ice Boots work:

Ice boots for horses usually work by a method of conduction, the heat moves from hot to cold. Using ice boots with compression means there is more contact to the leg and the cold can penetrate deeper. When ice and compression boots for horses are applied to the horse’s legs, the cold temperature lessens the inflammatory processes by decreasing tissue metabolic rate, slowing ischemic tissue damage.

The efficacy of horse ice boots lies in their ability to deliver significant cold temperatures to the leg.

How do Equi-N-Ice Bandages work:

Equi-N-icE works by drawing heat away from the affected area through a process of rapid evaporation, rather than forcing cold in as is the case with the horse ice boots. Upon application of the Equi-N-ice Reusable Cooling Bandage the temperature of the treated area is reported to drop by 10 to 15°C within 20 minutes.

Horses already harness evaporation and approximately 70% of heat loss from a horse during exercise, is via evaporation when humidity is low (Guthrie and Lund 1998). The sweat of horses, but not humans, is hypertonic and contains abundant Na+, K+, Cl, and latherin, a protein that decreases surface water tension and makes the sweat spread to help evaporation (Eckersall et al. 1982; Hodgson 2014) Latherin, also makes a bubble-like foam on the skin and this prevents sweat from dripping off the coat thereby enhancing evaporation (Eckersall et al. 1982; Hodgson 2014). A wet Equi-N-Ice wrap will also create an evaopration effect like this.

Comparative Efficacy between Equi-N-Ice and Ice boots for horses:

When comparing horse ice boots and Equi-N-Ice bandages for cooling horse legs, we used skin temperatures as a comparison by placing a temperature probe on the horse’s skin and recorded temperatures every 30 seconds. A thermal image camera was used to capture the emitted heat from the horse’s leg after removal of the horse ice wraps or Equi-N-Ice bandages.

We present the findings here:

The Equi-N-Ice bandaged initially dropped the leg temperature by 8°C rose slightly and slowly reduced again to what equalled a 10°C drop in temperatures over 25 mins. Temperatures then began rising until removal 40 mins later. The leg then dropped temperatures by a couple of degrees on removal and there was a feeling of cold probably due to the dampness of the leg from the damp bandage.

Cryochaps Ice and compression boots for horses, the leg was wet first and the temp logger was started recording after the leg was wet. Temperatures started at 29°C before the leg was wet, dropped to 22°C and the within a minute of the ice wrap for horses being applied, was under 10°C and dropped to under 5°C after tightening the compression sleeve. These temperatures remained under 5°C until the ice wrap was removed.

Pictures below show the cold external temperature of Equi-N-ice wrap and then surface temperatures of the skin when the Equi-N-ice bandage was pulled down.

Pictures below show the cold external temperature of the ice and compression boot and then surface temperatures of the skin when the ice boot was removed.

Both legs above where the cooling boots for horses had not been applied were at 24 degrees according to the thermal image camera

Ice boots for horses or Equi-N-Ice bandages?

The choice of what product to use on your horses’ legs after exercise will come down to what you want to achieve. Do you want a significant drop in tissue temperatures to below 10°C? This is reported in studies to slow the metabolism and inflammtory response, plus achieving temperatures below 10°C has been found to be the ideal temperature to help speed recovery and hopefully prevent injuries in humans. Or do you want a smaller drop in temperature? For hot days give an evaporation cooling to help keep legs cool. What is interesting is that just wetting the leg had the same effect and temperature drop as Equi-N-Ice, so you could just keep wetting the leg for a similar effect?

Ultimately, the choice between horse ice boots and Equi-N-Ice bandages depends on individual preferences. Consulting with a veterinarian or equine care professional can help determine the most suitable cooling modality for your horse’s legs.