There are many reasons to ice, however 2 main reasons are: injuries, which you should consult your veterinarian for treatment protocols, or after strenuous activities, like galloping, jumping or an excessive workload. There are many scientific studies published online that state many reasons why icing can be beneficial.
The use of cryotherapy (icing), particularly in the initial days of injury or after strenuous activities (galloping, jumping, excessive workload or particularly hot days), is instrumental in slowing down the circulation and thereby helping to reduce the swelling and pain. Cold therapy also decreases metabolic needs of the tissue as well as providing a local anesthetic effect. All of these benefits mean:
- More comfort for your horse
- Aiding in the tissue being able to repair its self after use and strain.
Think of being proactive instead of reactive! Taking the time and making the investment to ice your athletic partner, may help prolong the “wear and tear” effects as there is no such thing as complete “perfect” training, conformation, conditions and definitely no perfect horse- though I can think of a few that come close!
What we aim for, as partners in our horse’s well-being, is to do the best we can with what we have, and help our horses recover and prevent long-term damage that we can’t see. It’s the “wear and tear” that one day will have a huge impact on our horse’s comfort.
Some people may feel lost on how to go about finding the right system on how to provide cold therapy for their equine partners, so we have compiled a short list of tips and tricks.
- Introduce your horse to ice in an enclosed area, it can be quite shocking to some horses initially. Make time to hold the horse and maybe provide a distraction such as hay or feed. The easiest area to introduce is the forelegs. Hind legs are a little more unpredictable, and can potentially get you kicked unintentionally.
- Ice boots are an excellent investment, they can be pricey initially but are something that are reusable and can help avoid vet bills or time off in the future, especially if you purchase the kind with removable ice packs so you can refreeze after each use.
- When looking for ice packs or boots, it is important to make sure the boot or packs stay cold longer than your intended use, you don’t want them heating up before you are done and bringing heat and circulation back to that area.
- If going the with Boots that can hold actual ice (where you supply the ice and not use packs)- to get both legs cold enough- this may take up to 16lbs of ice (1- 8lb bag each leg) -each use- for both front legs.
- Wet the hair thoroughly, down to the skin, before applying ice boots. That eliminates the insulating effects of hair and enables transmission of cold to underlying tissues.
- Ice for no more than 20-30 minutes at a time, Ice and cold therapy work to reduce the blood flow to heated and inflamed tissues. After about 30 to 40 minutes, the constricted blood vessels start to open up again. It is best to ice for short periods frequently and allow intervals with no ice in between rather than just leaving ice in place for extended periods. Depending on the situation or injury, you might want to ice 2-4 times a day.
- After Icing, dry the legs thoroughly before wrapping, to ensure no moisture is caught under wraps, that will help contribute to skin diseases. This is also a good time to add a liniment or poultice (legs need to be wet for poultice- this is the exception).
- Portable freezers are a lifesaver and now a lot of horse show venues have plugs around the barns so provide an easy set up for long term stays and needing ice packs on site.
Check out our selection of Cold Therapy products at: https://totalequihealth.com/collections/ice