Many of you know my Denny well, like all of us horse lovers, he is my mate and I would do anything for him. This is why I regularly use ice as part of my cool down, especially in summer!
As a therapist my horses are extremely lucky to have almost every tool at their disposal, red light, laser and even an equissage. Despite all this, my favorite most valued purchase has been my Finntack cold boots from Zebrula Equestrian. I invested 109$ for a pair, and so far having used them 3-5 times a week post ride for the year it has cost me less than 50 cents a week.
I think because as riders we cope with exercise better than our horses, we don’t think to ice regularly as we don’t need it. Our bodies have a far greater circulation system for our limbs than our best mates!
Human or horse, when we use our bodies, inflammation is the natural response to aid in repair and recovery. White blood cells are distributed to the area of our body damaged to increase blood flow and along with this nutrients for repair. When we go to the gym and lift weights, we push and overuse our muscles to tear the fibers and then have our amazing body re-build larger and stronger. We do the same with our horses every time we ride, even more so when we ask for smaller canter circles, new laterals, jumping or even to chase after a cow quickly!
Any sort of movement results in the capillaries that supply blood to the muscles, tendons and ligaments to expand and transport the extra blood needed for the activity. Very simply the more we move, the more blood we need to carry oxygen and glycogen (food) to sustain the movement.
But, here is where we need to be careful because horses don’t have fantastic circulation of their lower limbs. Once we stop riding, the excess fluid flow can persist for hours after even when it is no longer required. Although the extra blood flow contains essential nutrients and enzymes for healing, there is a fine line between benefit and the damage, stiffness and impact of the bone and joints caused by the heat and potential pooling of excess fluid for those few hours post ride.
Ice boots are effective at removing heat after exercise, Matthew A. Burd, DVM, MS, from California Polytechnic State University reported on a small study of six sporthorses, looking at the effect of ice on the temperature of their limbs post exercise. Thermal images were taken pre, during and post cool/ice boots to evaluate the impact on the temperature of the horses limbs. The research found that the legs wearing ice boots were more than 43 degrees cooler than the non-iced legs immediately following a 20 minute ice treatment period. The effect lasted on average 14 minutes after removal of the cool/ice boots before returning to the temperature of the control leg.
Ice is an analgesic and reduces the sensation of pain, but most importantly it encourages vasoconstriction and reduces blood flow. The sooner we can get our horses leg temperatures back to their baseline circulation the better for their long term soundness. Lets face it, horses weren’t designed to be ridden!
We talk about the horses back not being designed to carry weight and riders and spend hundreds on gel pads and numnahs, but we sometimes forget their legs aren’t designed for the level of activity we require from most disciplines either.
There are some amazing and convenient products out there now and many of us do have a fridge or freezer at the barn. I love that my ones from Zebrula are designed for the fridge which is awesome because they still stay cool enough without being frozen like some. I can take them with me in a cooler bag to a lesson like I would packed lunch, and always live at the bottom of my esky for the weekend eventing.
I also love a good poultice or liniment that has cooling ingredients, this will help draw out excess heat and reduce any residual inflammation preventing fluid or swelling. I have a few staple products I keep in my float and use these along with my ice especially after a big jump lesson or even a ride on a hot day.
I have put years of effort into Denny from training to building a strong trusting relationship with him. I don’t want to start again with another horse so I always spend the extra 20 minutes post ride to care for him. Some might think it’s overkill, for me its peace of mind.
The average adult spends 38 minutes on social media a day reading blogs like this, so do that while your horse has a feed and ice after a ride! We won’t always have time, but if when we do, we go the extra mile – our horses will last and love us for longer.
Use the code ‘Jemma15’ for 15% off when you check out these awesome cooling boots here!
Jem and Den
(P.s my older boy Malibu featured in these photos – Denny was on a day off)