This Is How To Rehab Proximal Suspensory Injury
This Is How To Rehab Proximal Suspensory Injury Hind limb proximal suspensory injuries are one of the top three injuries that Dr. Sherry Johnson, managing partner of Equine Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation, sees at her clinic (Tendon injuries and the spectrum of osteoarthritis are the other two.) Here we pick her brain on how to best rehabilitate a horse with this condition—with the ultimate hope of returning to soundness, work, and competition. And, as always, Dr. Johnson recommends working alongside a veterinarian to assess and rehabilitate your horse. The first, crucial step in managing an equine athlete with a hindlimb proximal suspensory ligament injury is to work with your veterinarian to characterize the extent and source of injury as accurately as possible. This is most commonly approached through the process of diagnostic blocking and imaging. The advancements in MRI evaluation of this dense anatomic region in horses has really shed light on the intricacies of injury patterns. It’s also important to tease out particular features of each injury, such as: Is the hock also involved? Or, are the lower suspensory branches implicated as well? These are all features that ultimately change the trajectory of each case’s successful management. The biggest thing I tell my owners and trainers is that each suspensory injury is unique, and each horse’s path to recovery will look different. Of all the orthopedic injuries horses get, therapeutic responses to hind suspensory injury management can vary the most. Despite the nuances that make each case’s management different (medical management vs. surgical management, etc.), there is a general framework of useful tips and tricks to help your horse along the road to recovery. In the early phases of injury, support—from icing, NSAIDS, compression, and physical therapy—begin at a high level and are then reduced as the horse begins to show progress in recovery. It’s all a big recipe that begins with all the support aids that are then peeled away, one by one, as I’m able to increase the physical work load. In the beginning of the rehab process, exercise is typically very light, but it ultimately depends on the extent, severity and chronicity of injury. Hand walking, in addition to core physical therapy exercises, is commonly utilized. Strategies to activate hindlimb muscle groups to stabilize the entire pelvis are frequently incorporated. Alongside the gradual, physical work, I like to utilize icing after each workout session for pain modulation and to keep inflammation and swelling at bay. At ESMR, we use targeted flexibility and strength training in one-on-one sessions with the horse and one of our physical therapists. Once the horse begins to improve, we’re able to increase with exercise modifiers like ground pole passes, resistance bands, introducing light weights, or increasing speed. We tweak these regimens based on the trajectory of the individual case. There are so many layers and benchmarks, and I need to see the horse pass a level in comfort before they can transition to the next phase. There are so many thoughts and considerations that go into every single protocol decision in the rehab process. For example, I must consider if the horse is a young Thoroughbred, an older Warmblood, or a Quarter Horse reining prospect. Each athlete is different, and what their body needs to be physically prepared to do their job is quite unique. I truly believe in taking a global approach to the horse. Icing, nutrition, foot care, exercise, core physical therapy, medication—these are all part of the comprehensive package that we utilize at our clinics. Further treatment depends at which stage the horse will go home. Some don’t go home until they’re ready to be in training or to go show and some have owners that want them back sooner. Whichever stage of recovery the horse is in, I send the horse home with specific instructions and a plan with exercises and an icing regimen. I always recommend that my clients invest in Ice Horse suspensory wraps when rehabbing this injury because of the anatomic fit and because the Ice Horse ice packs mold to the leg to effectively deliver cold therapy. The Ice Horse wraps have the proper amount of compression and will stay cold for the long periods of time required to see benefits from icing. Dr. Sherry Johnson, DVM, MS, Ph.D., DACVSMR, was raised in Iowa on a row crop farm, spending most of her time on the back of a horse. She attended veterinary school at Iowa State University, followed by an internship at the Equine Medical Center of Ocala (EMCO). After completing an Equine Sports Medicine & Rehabilitation residency at Colorado State University and becoming DACVSMR board-certified, she completed her Ph.D. which focused on rehabilitation modalities related to tendon healing. For further updates, please follow Ice Horse on Instagram at @icehorse and visit the Ice Horse website at www.icehorse.com and the ESMR website at www.eqsmr.com.
This is How to Maintain Soundness of the Equine Athlete
This is How to Maintain Soundness of the Equine Athlete Regardless of the discipline, the actively competing horse, requires a certain level of care to continue to perform with sound body and mind. Here are a few tips from Dr. Sherry Johnson, managing partner of Equine Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation, that will help preserve and maintain the physical health of your equine athlete. Within the realm of high-level performance horses, new injuries can develop as a result of use. And then there are the horses that have some level of orthopedic baggage—those known injuries or issues that have resolved, allowing the horse can come back to their respective sport in a usable condition but that require a higher level of care and vigilance. Whether your horse falls in either camp, the overarching approach to soundness is to protect all the hard-working tissue and to keep inflammation at bay. Increased workloads can lead to soreness or the beginnings of an injury. It’s important to prevent a primary injury from developing by zapping it at the pain-modulation level and by promoting healing. The super-vigilant horse owner or trainer/rider can catch possible problems early. And I work closely with them by using modern technology, which includes optimized icing tools, to address the situation. I think that icing is the first and foremost method that I utilize for injury prevention. Of course, I don’t suggest icing before calling the veterinarian for suspected injuries. But once the horse is professionally assessed, then I love using Ice Horse to reduce inflammation and swelling. Once an issue is highlighted, icing is my first line of defense to reduce inflammation. Ice Horse is great because it is non-water immersive, which in turn means the ability to use the ice wraps and boots longer and more frequently. It’s really an asset to be able to ice without soaking compromised feet, for example. Conversely, you’re able to wet the legs or backs before applying the anatomically correct Ice Horse wraps or blankets for a deeper cold therapy treatment. Icing is also helpful after intense work. My clients will look at their training and work schedules, and when preparing their horses in the lead up to a horse show, they’ll be sure to ice as the workload increases and have their horses be in a constant state of active recovery. Additionally, icing is great on the horses’ off days, when they can relax and rest for the day, wearing their wraps. I don’t believe there is such a thing as icing too much especially when using the Ice Horse dry immersion technology. In my mind, as long as the fit is good, you can, and should, leave ice wraps and boots applied for long periods of time to truly see the benefits of this form of cryotherapy which includes reducing temperature at the tissue-level. This is why it’s so important to use a product like Ice Horse that actually stays cold for far longer than its competitors. Icing results in pain modulation and reduced swelling, which promotes a more pain-free state at the tissue level. In a pain-free state, the horse is physically able to do more: more rehab, more training, more competing. So whether it’s injury prevention or pain modulation for your horse, look to icing with Ice Horse as that first line of defense. Dr. Sherry Johnson, DVM, MS, DACVSMR, was raised in Iowa on a row crop farm, spending most of her time on the back of a horse. She attended veterinary school at Iowa State University, followed by an internship at the Equine Medical Center of Ocala (EMCO). After completing an Equine Sports Medicine & Rehabilitation residency at Colorado State University and becoming DACVSMR board-certified, she embarked on a Ph.D. program where she focused on rehabilitation modalities related to tendon healing. Her achievements include receiving the 2018 American Quarter Horse Foundation Young Investigator Award; the 2019 EQUUS Foundation Research Fellow for her research on new approaches for tendon injury rehabilitation in horses; and the 2020 Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation Storm Cat Career Development Award for her project, "Validation of Blood Flow Restriction Training in Horses."
Signs of Laminitis
One of the most heartbreaking diseases that can happen to a horse is laminitis. Laminitis is the inflammation of the laminae, which is the "velcro" that surrounds the hoof’s coffin bone and glues it to the hoof wall. Laminitis is most common in both front feet, and can happen in the hind feet as well. Founder is when the “velcro” has failed and the bones of the hoof are displaced, either by sinking, rotating, or sinking medially. It’s important to stress that if you even think your horse is developing laminitis or another hoof condition get your horse’s feet into ice and call your Veterinarian right away. It’s recommended by the Veterinary community that any horse showing signs of laminitis remain in ice therapy for 24-48 hours straight, or longer, depending on the case. Cold therapy on the hooves and lower legs not only reduces inflammation and pain, it prevents more triggering chemicals in your horse’s body from reaching the hooves causing more damage. Of course this is only helpful if you know what to look for! Some common signs of laminitis are: Your horse is tender or sore after being shod. Walking is uncomfortable, he may hesitate, he may act like he’s on eggshells. He may not want to turn in his stall, he may pirouette/pivot and put all his weight on the hind end. He may also take tiny baby steps with the front hooves to turn. Mild colic. Postural changes. Is he standing differently? Some horses look as if their front feet are splayed out in front of them. Digital pulses that are strong and bounding. The digital pulse is found on the lower leg at the back of the fetlock, your Veterinarian can show you the exact location. It’s best to know your horse’s normal digital pulse, check it every day as you check legs and pick feet. It’s typical for a healthy hoof to have a barely perceptible digital pulse. The hooves are warm or hot. Again, check every day as you pick feet. You may even see the hair around the coronary band and pastern start to poke out and be fringy….if the hoof structures are sinking inside, the hairs will be rearranged on the outside. It’s often very helpful to know a little bit more about your horse's lifestyle and diet, as metabolic issues such as insulin resistance and Cushing’s disease are often factors in laminitis development. A simple blood test yearly (or twice yearly) will tell your Veterinarian about your horse's metabolic state. Other factors that influence the development of laminitis include: Your horse’s weight, obese horses are more likely to have laminitis. The footing your horse exercises on—hard and unforgiving surfaces take their toll on the hoof. Fevers – a virus or illness that includes a fever often can preclude laminitis. Exposure to toxins, such as black walnut. This is sometimes in sawdust shavings. Stress. Increased carbohydrate intake, such as the horse that escapes and eats all of the grain from the feed storage area. Spring grass is also high in sugars, as is fall grass that is environmentally stressed. Size and gender. Ponies are more likely to develop laminitis, as are geldings. Now—some of these signs are also signs of an abscess or other hoof ailment, which also can be really painful and should be treated right away. If you suspect abscess, work with your Veterinarian to make sure it is just an abscess. Some of us would rather save few bucks and have our Farrier come out to check for an abscess, which they are very often experienced in. However, your Veterinarian is also versed in this and can eliminate laminitis as a cause. Veterinarians can diagnose diseases and conditions, prescribe appropriate medications, and work into the soft tissue in the hoof. Farriers can't do these things, so don’t wait, don’t wait, don’t wait if you see any of those signs. Call the Veterinarian and start your horse on some cold therapy. Ice Horse Laminitis Kit If you do end up with a case of laminitis, you can use the Laminitis Kit to keep your horse's hooves cold—reducing inflammation and providing some pain relief. Buy the laminitis kit here!
This Is Why FEI Event Riders Choose Ice Horse
Ice Horse is Proud to Announce New Team Riders Ice Horse is proud to announce the addition of new team riders, Liz Halliday-Sharp, Caroline Martin, and Sara Kozumplik Murphy. All three riders compete at the international, FEI-level for Three-Day Eventing and utilize Ice Horse products to provide the best cold therapy for their respective strings. “Ice Horse and Eventing really go hand in hand,” said Julie, Ice Horse CEO and owner. “Ice Horse cold therapy products are clinically proven to stay colder longer and to cool inflammation better than any other equine cold therapy option. From dressage to cross-country to stadium jumping, the Eventing sport demands a lot from the horses’ bodies and legs, and there’s no better way to maintain, or treat, soundness than with consistent application of Ice Horse products.” Liz Halliday-Sharp Caroline Martin Sara Kozumplik Murphy Liz Halliday-Sharp agrees on the importance of cold therapy for her horses. Keeping her horses sound is a key factor in achieving her accomplished record, which includes winning the 2020 U.S. Eventing Rider of the Year title in addition to landing on the top of the international leaderboard with the most FEI wins in 2020. Halliday-Sharp is a favorite to make the U.S. team for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. “I absolutely love the Ice Horse products for my horses,” said Halliday-Sharp. “The Cold Capsule inserts are secured easily with velcro, and they stay in place on the horses’ legs. The Ice Horse boots are great for the young horses that may get nervous standing in big boots or tubs, and the upper-level horses benefit from Ice Horse’s superior coverage.” “It is so hard to keep most ice products cold, but I have never had a problem with these.” Halliday-Sharp added. “And the Cold Capsule inserts are small enough that they fit in freezers or coolers for no-hassle transport when we are on the road. Ice Horse is absolutely what I would recommend for horses for all levels and needs.” Halliday-Sharp’s most-used Ice Horse products for her string are the Ice Horse Tendon Wraps (starting at $59.95). Caroline Martin is another well-known name in the sport, having earned multiple titles and championships as a young rider. She was also named to the U.S. Developing Rider and Team Training lists every year for nearly a decade. And at the young age of 26, Martin has already represented the country in multiple international team competitions and is shortlisted for the upcoming Olympic Games. “I’m so amazed with Ice Horse products,” Martin said. “I had been searching for a product to use when our horses finish a jump school or a gallop that would actually stay cold on their legs, without making them nervous. I also struggled to find a product that would stay in difficult areas like hocks and stifles. “Ice Horse wraps stay in place, are easy to use, and don’t spook the horses. Horses can move around all they want in Ice Horse, including on hauls home after local events or on walks back to the barns after cross-country. “Best of all, the Cold Capsule inserts actually stay cold and secured on the horses, no matter what. With a busy import sales business, I feel the Ice Horse products are also the perfect introduction for young horses, especially 4-year-olds, into icing. Ice Horse helps my horses feel their best and gives me the peace of mind that I’m doing everything I can for their soundness.” In addition to the leg wraps, Martin likes to utilize the Ice Horse Back Blanket ($169.95) to relieve any back soreness. The Back Blanket can also be used with heat inserts for heat therapy. Sara Kozumplik Murphy is an international competitor in both Eventing and in Show Jumping. Additionally, she is a well-respected and sought-after coach and horse trainer and is known for producing quality horses. “Ice Horse was the solution after a long search for effective cold therapy,” said Kozumplik Murphy. “For years prior, our busy, professional barn grew tired of using cumbersome and substandard equipment to ice our horses’ legs after galloping and jumping. We needed an alternative solution that was effective, practical, and not time-consuming—which is exactly what Ice Horse offers. “Ice Horse leg, body, and hoof care are designed to offer the best combination of compression and cold therapy to reduce inflammation. Not only are the Ice Horse products easy to use, but I noticed a huge difference in the coolness and tightness of my horses’ legs after using Ice Horse. Gone are the days of ice packs melting or boots slipping because Ice Horse doesn’t move and its Cold Capsules stay freezing cold for hours.” “These products are so easy to use that anyone at any level can effectively and confidently use Ice Horse without supervision,” Kozumplik Murphy added. “We now haul our horses home from local events wearing various Ice Horse products. These products are a game-changer for our program.” Kozumplik Murphy finds the Ice Horse Hock Wraps (starting at $79.95) to be helpful in icing an area that would otherwise be difficult to treat. Ice Horse is proud to sponsor these three, exceptional athletes. They join the Ice Horse team that includes other top, international Eventers such as Lauren Kieffer and Buck Davidson.
It's All About The Ice
It's All About the Ice Equine cold therapy pioneer evolves from good to great. Julie Garella knows a good thing when she sees it. Many years as an investment banker in the pressurized New York City financial world will do that to you. It can also burn you out, especially if you have a heart for horses and yearn for a life that includes time to enjoy them. That's where Julie found herself in 2007, when she decided to put her business savvy to use for her own benefit. She had just published a book called Capitalize On Your Success and decided to set on a path doing exactly that. A few years later she came upon the "the best kept secret in the equine world," Ice Horse®, maker of equine cold therapy products. It was an investor's dream: an already-good product poised to be exceptional with some upgrades in design, technology and marketing. A pioneer in the cold therapy market for 15-plus years, Ice Horse has always had an edge because its cooling power comes from a patented technology used for the inserts, rather than gel packs that are common in this product category. When frozen, the inserts, compatible with all of Ice Horse's boots and wraps, have the consistency of soft, fluffy snow that stays cold for over two hours. Because the formula actually changes state, research shows that, ounce for ounce, the inserts provide therapeutic cooling five times longer than gels do. The granules in the patented formula help prevent the burning sensation common with gels and raw ice, Julie notes. Best of all, the inserts are reusable after about four hours in the freezer. Since acquiring the company in late 2012, Julie has committed to manufacturing in the United States. "This has allowed the company to carefully manage the quality control, improve the features of both the inserts and the wraps and focus on new products such as our equine Back Blanket and Ice Rider® line for humans." All of the Ice Horse products are now made in a facility that meets mandates for products bound for the human market. This assures high standards and consistency in the manufacturing of all components. The boots and wraps that hold the snow packs are made of state-of-the-art material that is breathable. This is an important distinction, says Julie, because many wraps are made of neoprene, which is a toxic material that can cause allergic reaction in horses and people. The new designs provide even compression to the areas being treated. New clear packaging invites consumers to touch and feel the material. Team Ice Horse Along with this evolution, the list of riders who endorse Ice Horse has grown to span many disciplines and horses at every level of competition. American Olympians Rich Fellers, Laura Kraut and Gina Miles top that list, along with national jumping stars Susie Hutchison, Joie Gatlin, champion hunter riders Hope Glynn and Liza Towell Boyd along with WEG gold medal reining champion Tom McCutcheon. The Ice Horse Team also includes dressage, reined cow horse, combined driving and barrel racing champions. These horsemen understand cold therapy's ability to keep damaging heat and inflammation at bay in muscles, tendons and joints. Ice Horse's boots and wraps are most commonly used after work or in treating an injury. They can also help with swelling associated with lymphangitis, cellulitis or edema. Suspensory ligaments, tendons, pasterns, knees, hooves, hocks, stifles and sore backs are the equine body parts currently treated by Ice Horse's ever-growing product line. Riders' use of Ice Horse products on their own sore spots spurred the development of Ice Rider wraps for the back, elbow/ankle and knee and shoulder. "Riders kept telling me they were using our hock wraps for their knees," Julie recalls. "I knew there must be a better way to handle that, so we developed it." Canadian Three Day event coach Clayton Fredericks complained of elbow pain from a polo injury, and thus was born the wrap that can be used on the elbow or ankle. Julie's own temperamental back led to the Ice Rider back brace. Ice Horse also offers Deep Heat inserts that fit the pockets in all their compression wraps and boots. Heat is soothing, relaxes muscles and prompts the healing effect of increased blood flow. Some conditions call for alternating hot/cold therapy and the interchangeable ice and heat packs make this an easy treatment to administer. Healthy Horse Space Julie left New York City and the financial world behind, but not her fast pace and open eye for new opportunities. She travels the show circuits domestically and abroad regularly to meet with riders and veterinarians and she's ever on watch for new products that fit into what she calls the "healthy horse space." "Just as in the human 'space,' people are looking at non-invasive, non-pharmaceutical ways of taking care of themselves and that's translated into the care of equines and small animals," she observes. Strict medication rules intensify that quest in the competitive horse world, making cold therapy an appealing choice. The entrepreneur is just now ready to get back into a regular riding routine and hopes to compete on the amateur hunter circuit soon. Win or lose, the Ice Horse proprietress and her equine partner will surely be cool competitors. For more information on Ice Horse, visit www.icehorse.net.
Ice Down To Ride On
Ice Down to Ride On! Using Cold Therapy for Hard Working Horses Read on for some of the ways cold therapy can be most effectively used to help hard working horses at all levels.
Create a Vet Kit for your horse
How to put together a Vet Kit for your horse! It's a great idea to rummage through your vet kit a few times a year to check for expired things, and maybe things that should be expired (anything that separates into layers is a good candidate for disposal, even before an expiration date.) Also be aware of temperatures - many items need refrigeration and/or can't take extreme cold or warm. No use in having meds if they are cooked or frozen! You never know what your horse will need. Recommended Equine First Aid Kit Contents Essential Items: Thermometer - you must know your horse's normal temperature, pulse, and respirations. Stethoscope - to listen to gut sounds and take a heart rate. Betadine solution and scrub - for wound cleaning. Saline - for wound flushing Big syringes (60 cc) - great to use for squirting wound cleaner into hard to reach places, also great to use to dose oral medications. Gauze pads/gauze roll - for wound bandaging. Non stick wound pad - to place just next to the wound, feminine pads work well also. Sheet cotton - for wrapping legs and packing hooves. Standing wraps and quilts - for support, prevention of stocking up, and keeping wounds clean. Elastic wound tape - such as Vet wrap or Elasticon for dozens of reasons! Waterproof tape - heavy duty tape great for securing small bandages. Bandage scissors - for scissoring. Safer than pointy scissors. Hoof Pick - because. Show Touch Up Spray - to mark emergency instructions on your horse. Pen/Pencils with note pad - to write down special instructions. Flashlight with batteries - because things usually happen at night. Extra Supplies Clippers - some wounds need hair free areas for medication application. Disposable gloves - it's always messy. Horse shoe pulling tools- just in case. Diapers (~size 5) - great for wounds, packing hooves. Ice pack and heat packs- to reduce swelling. No freezer is complete without ice packs. This wrap can be used to hold ice (or hot) packs in weird locations of your horse. Great for those times you are scratching your head about how on earth he managed to do THAT! Poultice - for hooves and for tendons. Needles and Syringes (aka "sharps") - to administer medications. Cotton balls - for small wound cleaning. Hoof Wraps Brand Soaker - for soaking hooves without the mess. Large enough to fit your horse's hoof, some water, and whatever else he needs to marinate in. Luggage tag - for emergency instructions, you can tie it into the mane. Electrolytes - I like the paste version in a pinch, it may not be safe for your horse to eat a meal with added electrolytes, the paste can be given at any time. Twitch - You can make one from bailing twine and a double ended snap. Make a loop of twine at one end of the snap, use that to twist your horse's nose. Clip the other end to his halter. Fly mask - for eye injuries, you want a clean mask to cover the injury. Bucket - for mixing wound cleaning solutions, you want a bucket without shampoo residue, horse food bit, and general barn dirt. Spider bandage- for strangely located wounds. Your favorite all purpose cream or ointment - like a diaper rash cream. Hoof Wraps boot - after a sprung shoe or hoof damage, this will protect his hoof and allow for easier movement. That should get you started!
Canada Knows Cold: Canadian Equestrian Team Selects Ice Horse Cold Therapy
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Canada Knows Cold: Canadian Equestrian Team Selects Ice Horse Cold Therapy The Canadian Equestrian Team (CET) is pleased to announce they have selected MacKinnon Products’ Ice Horse as their official cold therapy treatment for the 2015 Pan American Games to be held in Toronto July 12-26. “We were thrilled to have received a call from one of the team veterinarians in late spring,” said Julie Garella, Ice Horse CEO. “They let us know the team had tried a couple of Ice Horse products at the 2014 World Equestrian Games in France. So good were the results, that the CET decided to use an assortment of products from Big Black Boots to Back Blankets while training for, and competing at, the upcoming games.” Canadian Eventing team veterinarian, Dr. Christiana Ober speaks to the benefits of Ice Horse products, “The Ice Horse products are an integral part of our preventive maintenance and soundness program. We use them after gallops and hard schools to prevent inflammation in legs and joints. We have used the boots religiously leading up to and during the TORONTO 2015 Pan American games. I believe in these products and their ability to alleviate inflammation.” About Ice Horse: For over 15 years Ice Horse has been the trusted name in cold therapy for horses and riders. The products feature inserts which when frozen turn to soft fluffy snow, mold to the horse legs and stay cold for over two hours. To learn more visit www.icehorse.net. About the Canadian Equestrian Team The Canadian Equestrian Team (CET), a committee of Equine Canada, is responsible for developing, selecting and training all international teams in the eight equestrian disciplines recognized by the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI). These eight include the three Olympic disciplines of dressage, eventing and jumping, as well as driving, endurance, para-equestrian, reining and vaulting. The CET sends Canadian riders across the globe to compete individually and as a team at the Olympic Games, Pan American Games, World Equestrian Games, World Cups, and more. To learn more, visit www.equinecanada.ca.
Inflammation and Icing
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!
Does the Average Trail Horse Need the Same Level of Leg Care as a Sport Horse?
Leg care for the trail horse! Over the years, I have given a lot of “Leg Care” talks at expos, tack stores, barn chats, Pony Club meetings. These talks generally cover the following wonderful topics - How to do the daily leg inspection. Leg care for exercise and shipping - bandaging, wrapping, boots, polos, protection and WHY. Post exercise leg care. Weird things you can find on your horse’s legs. Inevitably, I’m always if this leg care is necessary from some that has a trail horse. Or a backyard horse that they only ride on the weekends. Or an older horse that they just play around on. The trail horse meets terrain, rocky footing, uneven surfaces. My answer is simple - in most cases, these horses need more care than the top sport or high performance horse, for a few reasons! Trail horses usually do their jobs on some really uneven terrain. It can vary from deep sand, to concrete like trails covered in rocks. Nothing is level. When the trails are hard, this creates concussion in the legs. When they are rocky, stone bruises are a real possibility. Deep footing, like sand or mud, strains and stretches the tendons and ligaments. There is a lot of soft tissue being moved around and stretched! Top athletic sport horses have the highest level of fitness. Many (but not all) of the trail horses and weekend warrior horses maintain a much lower level of fitness. This can put them at greater risk of injury - as their bodies are not conditioned for stress and exercise. Think of it this way. You are a casual runner, and you complete 3 miles on Saturday and Sunday. On Monday you can barely walk. Your neighbor runs 3 miles 5 days a week and has no problems walking after two days in a row. Many horses that do not have a regular exercise routine like to participate in shenanigans and tomfoolery during turn out and grazing time. There’s nothing wrong with this - it’s what horses do! Don’t forget, though, that horses spend an awful lot of time trying to injury themselves, and in some cases the exercise we do with them helps them relax in the turnout instead of burn calories zipping around. For older horses, just as in older people, stiffness and arthritis is a common issue. The phrases “motion is lotion” and “use it or lose it” apply here. Without daily movement, many older horses feel worse! Support your older horse’s joints with some great leg care and a suitable exercise program. What’s appropriate leg care for the trail horse? The weekend warrior? The older guy? Lots of paying attention. Memorize your horse’s legs. Daily leg inspections for heat, swelling, bugs, cuts, scrapes, scratches, weird new things, splints, you name it! Use cold therapy techniques on your horse’s legs. These can easily be done as you are brushing away sweat marks and cleaning tack - it doesn’t need to add tons of time to your routine!
Leg Care For the Western Horse Athlete
No matter the discipline, English or Western, horses perform a variety of jobs that all put stress on their joints, their backs, and the soft tissues in their legs. Even the seemingly low impact trail horse or western pleasure horse needs supportive and therapeutic care during their athletic years. It’s not just the spinning reining horses and the lightening quick barrel horses that should be getting all of the attention! You have many options for supporting your western horse’s body and legs, including poultice, ice therapies, massages, liniments, and heat packs, to name a few. These therapies work to decrease inflammation in tendons, ligaments and joints, reduce pain, promote circulation, and generally just feel good. Trail horses that explore the great wide open are ridden on uneven, and often unforgiving, footing. Stone bruises, tweaked tendons and ligaments from holes, rocks, or slipping, and even arthritis in supporting joints like the hocks are all possible for the casual trail horse. Western pleasure horses are trained to perform slow movements, often resulting in back pain as well as joint conditions in the legs. When it comes to the speedier types of Western disciplines, the hind end bears the brunt of long term wear. The barrel horse must bolt across the arena, and then rebalance on the hind end to make the turns. The cutting horse lowers his body by bending his leg joints to be able to work the cow. The reining horse comes to a sliding stop in a sitting position. These athletic horses often have hock problems, as well as tendon and ligament injuries in the front legs from the turning and stopping. It is always advisable to work closely with you Veterinarian to develop a plan to support your Western horse. Easy to do therapies include poultice, ice therapies, massages, liniments, and heat packs, to name a few. These therapies work to decrease inflammation in tendons, ligaments and joints, reduce pain, promote circulation, and generally just feel good for your horse. Cooling therapies, like ice and poultice, remove inflammation and promote healing of old and new injuries and are especially good for legs and joints. Cold therapy is also a great way to reduce any discomfort your horse may be feeling, as well as working to help prevent further injuries over time. Warming therapies, such as some liniments and hot packs, often sooth sore muscles and may help your horse loosen up to prepare for exercise. Many horses benefit from a heating and cooling plan. The easiest way to incorporate these therapies is do overlap them at the same time as your regular barn and grooming chores. As you are grooming you horse, he could be wearing a back blanket fitted with heating packs. After your ride, it’s simple to use ice boots on your horse’s hooves and legs as you brush away the saddle marks and clean your tack. Time well spent!