Does your horse need ice therapy? Yes - much of the wear and tear damage occurs without you seeing or feeling it! When you dig into how ice therapies work, you see that there are many short and long term benefits to this easy and inexpensive way to pamper your horse.
First a breakdown of how inflammation and cold therapies work. Injuries and routine exercise both create inflammation. Injured tissue, like a tendon or even a scrape, gets flooded with blood. Unfortunately, the injury has broken blood vessels, so they will leak into surrounding tissue. This creates painful inflammation and swelling. Ice therapies serve new injuries by constricting vessels and not allowing the leakage of fluids and blood into surrounding tissues. This prevents a large amount of fluid for your horse’s body to clean up and heal, thus healing times can be reduced.
Similarly, when your horse is exercising, his legs and muscles generate heat. This is amplified under protective leg wraps and saddle pads. Capillaries are dilated (opened up) during exercise to provide blood and oxygen to these areas. After work, there can be a build up of extra fluid, which causes inflammation as well as muscle soreness. After exercise, ice therapies serve to reduce soreness and bring your horse’s athletic game back up to par.
But what about older injuries and the aches and pains that go along with aging and being an athlete? Ice therapy can definitely help there, as well. Old injuries respond to ice as the constriction of blood vessels can have a pain relieving effect. Additionally, when the ice is removed, the area is flushed with a fresh supply of blood, which contains an army of injury repairing substances such as white blood cells and other "housecleaning" substances.
While it may seem silly to perform ice therapies on a sound horse or a horse that has recovered from an injury, it’s actually the best thing you can do to support your horse’s health! Preventing soreness, aiding in recovery from exercise, and supporting the long term health of your horse’s legs mean a happy athlete. And you only need a few minutes a day!