Most horse owners will at some point have to deal with swelling in their horse’s legs. Swelling has a range of possible causes, and it is advisable to contact your vet for advice as quickly as possible.
Why Does Swelling Occur in Horses’ Legs?
As horse owners, we tend to be very aware and check for heat or swelling in the legs, this can be related to a kick or may be a sign of internal injury. Identifying issues early allows them to be treated much sooner, which can ultimately result in a better outcome.
But why does swelling occur? Swelling occurs as a result of inflammation which in itself causes a build up of fluid. This can be in response to a soft tissue injury, for example, minor trauma caused by over exertion during exercise, a kick or impact, or in horses, legs tend to swell if the horse has been standing for a long time, this could be whilst travelling on a lorry or stabled for long periods of time.
The Inflammatory Response
When your horse injures a soft tissue, such as a tendon, the body produces an inflammatory response. The inflammation occurs to protect the injured area and prevent further damage. However, this inflammation that creates the swelling, can also cause pain and major swelling, can cause further damage as the cells are stretched. There is the controversial thought process that preventing the inflammatory repsonse may do more harm than good, and you should not ice after an acute soft tissue injury, because the reduction of inflammation may also delay healing. It is recognised that inflammation is necessary to promote healing. Like everything in life there is a balance, ice and compression does not prevent inflammation it just just dampens the repsonse down and if this can help limit swelling, then less damage is done to the surrounding tissues. Ice and compression should only be used for short periods so the inflammation is limited for a short time, when you remove the ice and compression you increase the circulation and bring fresh oxygen to the area to help kick start healing.
Causes of Swelling in Horses’ Legs
Common causes of leg swelling in horses include:
- Impact injuries
- Chronic Progressive Lymphedema (CPL)
- Tendon, ligament or joint injuries
- Filled legs from standing for long periods
- Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD)
How to Reduce Swelling in Your Horse’s Legs
By applying ice to the swollen area the temperatures are reduced and this can help to restrict the blood flow and provide pain relief by slowing down the nerve responses. Compression also allows for better cold transfer. By pressing the cold to the horses leg this creates a great contact which means super cold transfer and the cold has been seen in trials to be forced deeper into the tissues.*
Removing the ice and compression after 10-15 minutes is also important because it allows the blood vessels to open up, increasing blood flow and allowing a sudden rush of oxygen to the area which can help kick start healing.
Cryochaps Horse Leg Cooling Boots
Cryochaps are cooling boots designed especially to cool your horse’s legs after exercise or injury. Cryochaps are one of the first ice boots on the market to harness both cooling and compression, by featuring a neoprene sleeve for ultimate compression and cold transfer.
You can store Cryochaps in the freezer, and simply wrap, strap and leave them on for 10-15 minutes at a time. For best results we recommend wetting the horse’s leg before applying our ice boots. Wetting can be as simple as wiping a wet sponge down the leg to get the hair flattened down, this takes the air from the hair, which is a good insulator, so by wetting you get better cold transfer.,