Best Cooling products for horses legs: Comparing cold water boots versus Ice boots:

Two popular methods for cooling and supporting the legs post-exercise or after an injury are horse ice boots and boots you soak in water, water cooling boots for horses. But which method is more effective? Let’s delve into the science behind each to find out.

As equestrian sports continue to evolve, so do the methods used to care for our equine athletes. Among the various concerns, maintaining the health and performance of a horse’s legs ranks high. Injuries and strain can impede a horse’s ability to perform at its peak so what can be done to help. Cooling horses legs after exercise can be a good start.

The Science of Cooling horses legs:

Before diving into the comparison, it’s essential to understand the science behind cooling horse legs. Cooling is a common practice in horse care, especially after intense exercise, to reduce inflammation and prevent injuries. Cold therapy constricts blood vessels, decreasing blood flow to the affected area, which helps reduce swelling and numbs nerve endings, providing pain relief. In order to reduce inflammation, significant cooling is required, and skin surface temperatures need to be below 10° to produce an effective temperature inside the leg. This was studied by Kaneps, they inserted thermistor probes between the deep digital and superficial digital tendons of the horse to establish what internal temperatures were relative to the skin temperature.

Horse Ice Boots:

Ice boots for horses are a popular choice among horse owners and trainers for cooling horse legs. These boots are designed to wrap around the horse’s legs, providing direct contact with ice or gel packs. The cold temperature penetrates the tissues, providing immediate cooling.

The efficacy of ice boots lies in their ability to deliver consistent and controlled cold therapy to the targeted area. The addition of compression from some horse ice boots also helps reduce swelling and drives the cold deeper into the tissues.

Horse Water Cooling boots:

ProCool Cold Water boots for horses are a simple & easy way to cool horses legs after XC, work or injury. Unique water reactive crystals within boots swell & retain cold when soaked in water. Contoured shape supports the fetlock & tendon preventing slipping. You need to Soak for 2-4 hours prior to first use or after long periods in dry storage.

Soak in cold water for 1hr + prior to use (out of direct sunlight) or 2-4 hours prior to first use or after long periods in dry storage. Add ice to water when available, the colder the water, the better the effect. Horse water boots can be placed wet in fridge but NEVER freeze boots. The best therapeutic effect is gained after multiple 20-30 minute sessions.

Comparative Efficacy:

When comparing horse ice boots and water boots for cooling horse legs, several factors come into play:

  1. Temperature Control: Ice boots for horses should be applied at a temperature of -15°C or below. In the tests, Cryochaps Ice boots been in a cool bag for several hours and were at -17°C.  Water boots for horses will depend on the temperature of the water they are soaking in, in the tests we carried out the water temperature was 9°C and the ambient was 17°C.  
  2. Duration of Cooling: Ice boots provide continuous cooling for the 10-15mins of the desired application via a conduction cooling method. The heat is drawn from the leg as the cold ice boot makes contact with the warm leg, hence why an ice boot for horses has to be malleable to make good contact. The water boot for horses uses conduction and perhaps a small amount of evaporation as the wet surface comes into contact with the air, however the water boots for horses are generally quite thick so minimal effect of evaporation and they may also absorb heat from the surrounding environment.
  3. Ease of Use: All you need for a horse water boot to work is cold water, horse ice boots will need to be frozen and placed in a cool bag/box or freezer until use.

Results of cooling horse legs with horse ice boots or horse water cooling boots;

Temperature difference of the skin temperature can be seen in the graph below:

Pictures below show the cold external temperature of the water boot and then surface temperatures of the skin when the water boot was removed. The outer surface of the boot is much colder than the actual skin temperature.

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 were at 24 according to the thermal image camera

The following picture shows the leg temperature of the water cooled boot @24°C immediately after take off and the temperature of the ice boot leg that had been removed for 15minutes. The ice and compression boot was still cooler 15mins after removal than the water cooled leg that had just been removed.

Conclusion are Ice boots for horses or horse water cooling boots more effective:

Both horse ice boots and water boots offer benefits for cooling horse legs, but each method has its advantages and limitations. Ice boots for horses provide a high degree of continuous cooling, with leg temperatures dropping very quickly to under 5°C, and maintaining this for the entire application. On the other hand, water boots offered an initial 9°C temperature drop but then temperatures steadily rose to starting temperatures over 24 mins. Walking the horse caused a 3°C drop presumably as there was some air flow being created. The leg temperatures then dropped to 20°C when the cooling water boot for horses was removed. This was likely due to the wet leg was now able to cool via evaporation. It is interesting to note that the initial starting temperatures were the same between the two legs, 29-30°C, the Cryochaps leg was wet before application and we can see from the graph it plateaued between 21-22°C, like the temperatures achieved after the cooling boot was removed, which was between 20-21°C. So are cold water boots really effective? Could you just wet the leg to acheive the same results?

Ultimately, the choice between horse ice boots and water boots depends on individual preferences, the horse’s needs, and the specific situation. It is unlikely that a short sharp 10° drop in leg temperatures with the water cooling boots and then steady rewarming has much significant effect on internal leg temperatures. A sustained 25° drop in temperatures for the ice and compression boot for horses, may have a reduction in internal metabolism and may produce a decrease in inflammation, and this is thought to help recovery and hopefully prevent injuries developing.

This type of experimentation along and consultation with a veterinarian or equine care professional can help determine the most suitable cooling method for your horse’s legs.