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June 10, 2014

A Horse’s Leg: Ice, Poultice or Rinse?

by DePaolo Equine Concepts

With all of the stress performance horses’ legs are put under, the best way to reduce inflammation, cool tissues, and decrease trauma is with cold water or icing. This approach can also be helpful to alleviate pain and swelling after long hauls.

There is a variety of products you can use to achieve positive results: hosing, tubs of icy water to stand in, ice boots, whirlpool boots, dual action wraps like Game Ready and cold saltwater hydrotherapy. Treatment should last 20-35 minutes.

Ice bootFor injuries, icing is crucial during the first 48 hours, and can greatly reduce the severity of soft tissue damage. Recovery time may be accelerated with these products because swelling and inflammation are not allowed to create more damage to the injured area.

The drawbacks of this therapeutic approach is that most products can only treat the lower leg, and a few of the treatments require you to be present during the entire treatment. You have to choose what will work best for your horse and your budget. All categories of injuries can receive benefit from icing.

Cool down and rinsing is often the most overlooked part of an exercise regimen, and a key way to prevent performance problems. A proper cool down will reduce heart and breathing rates, gradually cool body temperature, prevent pooling of blood in the extremities and allow the muscles to stretch and remove waste, such as lactic acid buildup which causes soreness.

Abruptly stopping exercise followed by tying to a trailer, stalling or hauling may cause cramping, tying up and swollen legs. A 15 minute cool down period will prevent exhaustion and injury, as well as allow your horse to mentally relax.

In hot weather, it is best to cool out in a covered arena or shady area. In cold temperatures, use a fleece cooler to help keep your horse warm, prevent a chill and cool down slowly.

After strenuous training or competition, bathing is another way to help reduce body temperature and recover from hard exercise. Rinsing off sweat will not only allow your horse to feel better, but will also decrease the opportunity for gall sores or fungal infection.This is a great time to check for any cuts or scrapes that may need attention.

Sponge baths with liniment, especially those products with the herb arnica, can be beneficial in soothing sore muscles. Liniment may also help reduce pain and inflammation in muscle tissue.

After bathing, or if bathing isn’t available, spraying a 50/50 mixture of rubbing alcohol and cold water will assist in cooling and drying. This is a great option if you are wanting to leave an event shortly after competing.

PoulticeAn ‘old school’ method for pulling heat and swelling out of legs overnight is with poultices. While they can be messy to apply on the leg, and let’s be honest, they don’t smell too great either, these products usually do a good job of relieving soreness. Look for products that contain the anti-inflammatory herb arnica.

A new line of products that look like a quilt of poultice packets, is much easier and cleaner. Simply dip it in cold water, wrap it around the leg and put a pillow wrap over the top. In the morning, there isn’t any scrubbing needed to remove layers of poultice. STAYONS Poultice Wraps offers multiple blends of traditional poultice ingredients which allows you to choose the right wrap for the problem at hand. Leg, knee, hock and hoof wraps are available.

This approach is great for minor bone issues (splints), as well as tendon, ligament and joint swelling and in the leg.

As you can see, many options for cooling therapies are available. If you want to include some of these products in your prevention or treatment regimens, be sure to research them thoroughly — don’t simply rely on forums or chat groups. Educate yourself on the how long to use these therapies and always use caution and common sense.


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