Cold Therapy for Horses

Equine ice boots can be used both as a preventative measure after exercise or therapeutically after an injury occurs. Your needs may be different depending on what you are using the ice boots for and the area of the horse you need to ice.

Cold Therapy for your Horse: Benefits

Ice Boots for Horses: Benefits

If using preventatively, horse ice boots are best used after exercise. Using ice boots after exercise can help lessen stress on joints, ligaments, and tendons. Cold compression therapy systems add to this effect by adding compression to stimulate the lymphatic system. When using ice boots after exercise, it’s recommended to keep them on 15-20 minutes at a time.

For acute injuries or therapeutic use, ice boots work similarly but with a more immediate reaction. In the case of an actively hot or swollen leg, ice boots are meant to reduce inflammation and reduce pain. For best results, it is recommended to use ice boots for 15 minutes on, then off for 5 minutes. This can be repeated until heat or swelling is noticeably less. Ice boots are not recommended if there is an open wound without a barrier between the wound and the boots. If the issue persists or is severe at onset, contact your local veterinarian.

Cold Therapy for your Horse: Options

Cold Therapy for Horses: Options

Before icing became popular, cold hosing was the most common option for cooling down a horse’s legs or body. Cold hosing is by far the most easily accessible option to cool down the horse’s leg but it is also the most time consuming. You cannot walk away and do other barn chores while cold hosing. You also may not get the leg as cool using just water.

The next best option is often using a bucket with ice that your horse needs to stand in. This will get your horse’s leg colder than cold hosing. Unfortunately, this is often difficult to maintain as many horses won’t stand with their leg in an ice bucket without supervision. This is again another method that for most horses needs to be supervised. The other issue is that it will not work on upper limb or hock issues.

Traditional Ice Boots for Horses

Traditional Ice Boots for Horses

The traditional equine ice boot requires crushed or cubed ice or gel inserts to be placed inside the boot. The Dura-Tech® Neoprene Ice Boot is one such boot and comes in a full leg or hock sized option. The benefit of ice boots like these, is that you don’t have to freeze the whole boot. Gel packs can be frozen in the freezer or ice can be used as needed. The Dura-Tech model also covers up over the knee, unlike some ice boots which only cover the cannon bone area. This alleviates the need to buy a knee boot separately.

Ice Leg Wraps for Horses

Ice Leg Wraps for Horses

Another option is a gel wrap that doesn’t require any additional items such as ice. The Dura-Tech® Cooling Gel Wrap comes in many options: two sizes for the lower leg, a hock wrap, and a leg and hoof wrap combo. These wraps must be stored in a freezer but will stay cold for hours. Since this type of ice boot is more flexible and conforms to the leg, they can be used for front or hind legs unlike some ice boots.

Cold Compression Therapy for Horses

Cold Compression Therapy for Horses

A more intense ice therapy is cold compression therapy like our Pressure-Ice® System. This combines cold therapy with active compression and is available for lower legs and hocks. This system can use either gel packs or an ice and water combination. Cold compression therapy will minimize inflammation, increase blood flow, and move excess fluid through the lymphatic system. Another benefit of this system is that the carrying case has a waterproof ice storage container that you can keep the wraps in if you are using it at horse shows.

Finding the best cold therapy option for your horse can be tricky. You’ll need to consider your ability to freeze boots, if using ice is easier, or just to cold hose. The area in which you want to cover will also affect what type of boot and method of therapy that is easiest and most effective. If you have any questions concerning the best cold therapy option for your horse, contact your local veterinarian.