Icing horses’ legs and using ice boots is becoming more common in equestrian sport. Icing is especially popular among riders participating in competitive dressage, show jumping and eventing. However, it can sometimes be tricky to understand when to ice your horse’s legs. This blog article outlines the two main instances when you should ice your horse’s legs, as well as how to use our ice boots for horses.
There are a two main instances where you should ice your horse’s legs: after exercise and after injury. Icing in each of these instances has a number of benefits to horses, which are outlined below.
One of the uses of cryotherapy is prophylactically. This is in relation to regular training and competition when there is no obvious injury. In the horse, this is particularly relevant to the feet, the fetlock and knee joints and the flexor tendons.
Training or competing on hard ground can lead to soreness in the feet and joints, which can be treated with cryotherapy following exercise. Similarly, older horses with arthritic changes in their joints can be made more comfortable after exercise with acute cryotherapy.
With respect to tendons and ligaments, particularly those of the lower limbs, we are aware that these are a very common site of injury and that the injuries are in the main the result of accumulation of low-grade damage over months and years of use. The temperatures within these tendons are also some of the highest in the body and this enhances any inflammatory effect.
Is this natural? We would argue the domesticated horses’ tendons are not ideally designed to cope with the temperatures that they reach during training and competition. The temperature at the end of exercise is a combination of intensity and duration. In the wild horses, do not canter and gallop for the same durations as we ask in training and competing and so it is likely their tendons do not reach the extremely high temperatures that lead to inflammation and degradation of the tendon matrix. For this reason, we believe that cooling after exercise is an important tool for tendon longevity.
Many horse owners have had that sinking feeling when their horse comes in from the field with a swollen leg. Injuries involving the tendons and ligaments in the lower leg can often benefit from icing. Treating these injuries quickly is key to recovery, and providing timely pain relief is also important.
Cryotherapy is proven to provide pain relief. This is because it decreases nerve conduction velocity. Essentially, icing your horse’s legs after an injury constricts the blood vessels and decreases circulation to the area, hence it is important to ice your horse’s legs as soon as possible after an injury.
If your horse injures his or her leg, applying our ice boots for horses as soon as possible can help to reduce the pain. Our compression ice boots for horses are particularly efficient because the compression allows better cold transfer to the affected area.
Icing your horse’s legs during the rehabilitation process can also be beneficial. Newly repaired tissues can be at risk of inflammation, particularly as the horse is being brought back into work after injury. Using ice boots during rehabilitation can help reduce the chance of re-injury, whilst also reducing the chance of new injuries from occurring.
How to Use Ice Boots for Horses
Our ice boots for horses are easy to use. Simply wet the horse’s leg, wrap and strap the ice boot and then allow to work for 15 minutes. We strongly recommend that you allow your horse to get used to using Cryochaps gradually. Always take care when working with your horse’s legs and always supervise your horse whilst using Cryochaps.
You can find instructions on how to use our ice boots for horses on our website.