Clays, gels and ice boots are often seen around the lorry park at events, with many horses having their legs covered or clad in something cold after they’re completed the cross country phase. This is a tried and trusted method of helping the horse recover after exercise and injury, but do you know why it works?
Cold therapy is very popular. It’s available to everyone, no matter what budget they’re working to, and it’s very effective. When cold is applied to an area, say the leg after cross country, it can bring rapid relief to pain, bruising and recent tissue damage, reduce tissue swelling and the development of further injuries, reduce the CRP (C-Reactive Protein) level of the blood, and also cools the limbs quickly, reducing the temperature inside the leg to safe parameters to help prevent damage. Cold therapy should be applied as soon as possible after injury or strenuous exercise, to allow the cold to reduce temperatures and blood flow to the area.
To work alongside this, protective boots or bandages should be removed as soon as possible after strenuous exercise to help the cooling process of the lower limb. When horses sweat, the evaporation process helps to naturally cool, as does air passing over the limb when the horse moves. When we put boots on our horses to help protect them, we remove this function. Of course, there are a number of boots that allow air to flow around the limb, but fast removal still applies here as, during hard work, the core temperature of the tendons increases and this can lead to a breakdown of the fibres if a certain temperature is reached. Removing boots promptly and applying something cool can help.
Of course, cooling isn’t just a preventative measure after strenuous exercise, it can also be used as a treatment (or part of a treatment plan) for certain conditions. Cold therapy can be applied to swellings and bruising caused by kicks and injury, and in the case of soft tissue strains and damage too. Although boots, clays and gels can be very useful at home too, so can cold hosing, especially if there’s a small wound as you’ll also be washing that out as you hose. It’s a bit more time consuming but means that anyone with access to a hosepipe can apply this really useful therapy as needed. It goes without saying that if the injury is serious, such as a tendon injury, you should consult your vet and check your proposed treatment plan as soon as possible.
FMBs Therapy Systems supplies a range of innovative therapy products including the Activo-Med Combi Pro Rug, Lasers, Water Treadmills, Spas, EquiSox compression boots, Frio-Horse cryotherapy and Cool+Press Boots. Many of these systems are also available to hire as well as to buy. For more information, see www.fmbs.co.uk or call 01494 883433.