Depending on what discipline you do with your horse, you have probably seen riders carrying around buckets of ice or fancy ice boots after they compete, putting them on their horse’s legs or joints. But, what are the benefits to icing your horse, and does my horse need ice therapy?
Many eventers and racehorse trainers ice their horses after hard training, but it can also be beneficial for any horse that has done strenuous exercise. Some might say my horse is sound it doesn’t need ice therapy. However, it can help any horse from old horses that might suffer from arthritis, or the young horse doing some of its first training.
There is a lot of weight and pressure placed on a horse’s legs, and 60% of that weight falls on the front legs. When doing hard work the blood supply and temperature increase in those areas. Once exercise stops, this heat stagnates. Naturally, the heat will dissipate, however, to help recovery and reduce soreness, decreasing that inflammation and temperature quickly is important. This is where icing comes into effect.
Below are some points about ice or cold therapy to help you decide if it’s for you and your horse.
- Helps shrink the blood vessels in areas where ice is applied, which assists with reducing inflammation post-exercise.
- Natural anti-inflammatory
- Speeds up recovery
- Helps reduce soreness post-exercise.
- Treatment last for 20-30 minutes. If your horse has just completed quite a strenuous exercise, you can repeat the ice treatment a second time.
Types of ice boots/cold therapy
- Cold hosing – this is an easy way to cool your horse’s legs down, but it does use a lot of water.
- Ice bucket – A little harder to use especially on young horses as it requires the horse to stand still in a bucket for a length of time. It can be difficult for nervous horses as well and is limited to the areas you can treat.
- Ice wraps – These have inserts that can be placed in the freezer until needed. Much easier and simpler to use and can do a variety of areas at once on your horse.
- Ice Boots – these are long plastic boots that are fitted to the horse and filled with ice. A popular choice but can’t be used on hocks as easily. They do require plenty of ice to be on hand which can often be hard when out at competitions.
There are a lot of benefits to icing your horse, even if your horse appears sound. There are still many reasons to give it a try to support the recovery of your horse’s post-exercise and assist in reducing inflammatory injuries. As with any treatment, a discussion with your veterinarian is recommended.
Written by Selena P.