When it comes to equine rehabilitation, everyone wants the silver bullet. Whether the injury required an arthroscopic procedure, a full-blown surgery or non-invasive treatment like laser or shock wave, bringing a horse back from an injury requires serious commitment to a rehabilitation program.

We spent some time with Dr. Melissa King who heads the Equine Rehabilitation Center at Colorado State University and is also their Chief Lameness Technician to learn what goes into a successful rehabilitation program for your horse.


Watch the video to see why Dr. Melissa King uses Ice Horse Stifle Wraps for Rehab

Q: How Do You Determine the Course of Action to Take?


Rehab is very multimodal so there isn’t going to be just one therapy modality or therapeutic exercise, that’s going to do it all and fix everything. I take a very broad holistic approach and expect that even then, every horse is going to be very different. For example, you may have two horses come in, that have similar stifle injuries but those co-morbidities (additional issues) that they have developed as a result of the injury are going to be very different and so the target approach is going to be very different.   

What do find most challenging in developing the rehab program for a horse?


The thing that we struggle with in rehab is that too often want to just focus on the limb that’s injured, and forget to look at the whole horse. And that’s the critical piece. Yes, you want to focus on the region of injury but you also want to find all the other little tidbits that they’re suffering from. We call these co-morbidities.  These are problems that developed as a result of the primary injury and need to be treated as well.  If you don’t target the entire body, they’ll heal from their injury, and go back to work, but they’re not going to hold up because you haven’t addressed all the other things that they’ve developed because of the injury itself. Have your veterinarian check your horse at intervals along the way to make sure you are staying on track.


Can you tell us how you use Ice Horse® in your rehab program?

In vet school, we were taught that you only need to apply ice during the acute inflammatory phase. But if the horse is still having some swelling and some pain, cryotherapy is still very, very useful as a pain modulation device.

When we have a horse we are trying to bring back he’s  getting iced right after he walks in order to help with pain modulation.

The Ice Horse packs are amazing. They stay cold for very extended periods of time and the technology of the Ice Horse  pack itself allows you to mold that device around the region of injury. If you just took crushed ice, it’s very stiff and it stays stiff and then all of a sudden it melts, so it doesn’t have any contact with the body after that. The  Ice Horse packs are nice in that  are nice you mold them around the region, crush them, move them, they’ll stay in place and they stay cold for a very extended period of time.

What Instructions do You Give Your Clients When They Take the Horse Home?

When we get ready to send horses home, they go home with a pretty detailed program and before we let them leave here, we go through every exercise, every application of our various devices, like the Stifle Wrap from Ice Horse, for example. We’ll show them how we apply a device first, and then we’ll actually have our clients practice while we’re here so we can say 'tweak this or tweak that.' We provide a very regimented and strict protocol that they must follow with the caveat that then within a certain time frame, whether that’s 4 weeks or 8 weeks that there’s somebody out there that’s going to recheck them; usually their local veterinarian who has our number and can consult with us.

A stifle, unfortunately, is a big joint with lots of things that can go wrong.”

Melissa King, DVM

Equine Sports Medicine Clinician, Colorado State University, Fort Collins

Do you have any words of wisdom for the horse owner going it alone?

Be patient.  Rehab is a marathon.  It’s not a sprint and you’re going to have highs and lows. You’re going to have days you walk your horse out and you’re like oh, I’m making great headway things are going good. And then three days later, you walk around and you’re like oh my gosh, what happened? But it’s just like you, you go to your physical therapist and some days you want to choke them because you hurt so bad and then some days you go and you’re like, man, I’m feeling really good. It’s the same thing. You’re going to have highs and lows, but it’s a marathon so hang in there.    

About the Expert


Dr. Melissa King, DVM is one of the Equine Sports Medicine clinicians at Colorado State University, Fort Collins. Learn more about Dr. King and her rehabilitation expertise.

Ice Horse cold therapy was a featured modality in the wet labs during the 2019 AAEP Sports Medicine Summer Focus at Colorado State University.   

Why Use Ice Horse for Your Horse?

  • #1 clinically recommended equine dry cryotherapy brand, trusted by veterinarians, physical therapists, chiropractors, massage therapists and pro riders
  • Unique Cold Capsule inserts are backed by science and research-proven to deliver fast acting, long lasting and deep penetrating pain relief for the treatment of inflammation from injury or workout

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