There are so many “must-have” equestrian products available, it can be tricky to know what your horse really needs. When it comes to horse boots, it can be difficult to know what to purchase. This article aims to answer the question: Are cooling boots needed for horses?
Cooling Horse Boots: Why Are They Important?
Cooling boots in the form of ice boots for horses can be a great investment. Not only can they aid recovery after exercise, but they are also useful in the event of an injury. Exercise boots that minimise heat build-up during exercise are also a worthwhile consideration. Reducing heat build-up during exercise and cooling the legs effectively afterwards are key to supporting performance, as this article outlines.
Why Do Horse’s Legs Get Hot During Exercise?
When we exercise our horses, the tendons in the lower leg act as coiled springs. As the hoof lands, the superficial digital flexor tendon (SDFT) is stretched as the fetlock joint hyperextends and sinks towards the ground. That stretch stores the energy until the hoof leaves the ground and the tendon elastically recoils. This converts most of the stored energy back to kinetic energy, propelling the horse forward.
This mechanism actually helps save muscle energy during exercise, too (Alexander, 1988). The energy stored in the stretch is not all recoverable, and some 5–10 % is released as heat. This is the reason our horses’ legs get so hot when we exercise and, combined with the insulating effect of boots and bandages, could be a concern.
So how hot do the legs get? Temperatures as high as 45°C have been recorded in the core of this tendon during gallop exercise, while the tendon surface temperature plateaued at 5°C lower, at 40°C (Wilson and Goodship, 1994).
Are Cooling Boots Needed for Horses?
In the huge amount of testing that Cryochaps have carried out using temperature loggers placed in the mid region of the lower leg underneath boots or bandages, we have seen surface leg temperatures rise as high as 39 degrees. This indicates that the core tendon temperatures could indeed be getting to levels as high as 45°C.
This temperature rise is usually associated with cantering. However, if the horse is wearing boots and bandages, the leg cannot cool itself when the horse slows back to trot and walk and these high temperatures can remain for some time.
There is clear evidence from two unrelated studies that these temperatures, in the lab, are seen to affect the survival of the tendon cells (Birch et al. 1997; Hosaka et al. 2006). After 10 minutes of heating at 45 °C, the tendon cell survival fraction was 91%, whereas heating for 10 min at 48°C resulted in a drop in the cell survival fraction to 22%. The study concluded that while temperatures experienced in the central core of the SDFT in vivo are unlikely to result in tendon cell death, repeated hyperthermic insults may compromise cell metabolism of matrix components, resulting in tendon central core degeneration (Birch et al, 1997).
Cryochaps Ice Boots for Horses
The results of these studies provide a good reason to do two things. Firstly remove boots and bandages as quickly as possible after exercise. Secondly, consider investing in a quality set of ice boots, such as Cryochaps. Cryochaps ice boots for horses are designed in the UK and have been tried, tested and developed to provide optimum cooling to the horse’s lower leg after exercise. Our equine ice boots are designed to cover all the soft tissues in the lower leg. Furthermore, the compression sleeve helps to provide ultimate cold transfer. The Cryochaps K2F ice boot for horses is available to purchase here.
The Exoskeleton by Cryochaps
Finally, it’s worth considering what boots your horse is wearing during exercise. We know that the insulating effect of boots and bandages impacts tendon temperatures. Therefore, investing in exercise boots that minimise heat build-up is likely to be a sensible consideration. We are very excited to bring a new product to the equestrian market. The Exoskeleton is an exercise boot developed by Cryochaps. It is designed to minimise heat build up in the lower leg during exercise. Our exercise boot provides excellent strike protection in all the right places, whilst using forced convection cooling to draw air across the back of the leg as the horse moves. The Exoskeleton exercise boot for horses will be available to purchase via our website from July 2022.