What are the benefits of ice boots for horses?
Rick Mitchell, US Team vet, says, “If you are presented with an acutely swollen, hot limb, ice is never an inappropriate initial therapy.” (1)
Ice boots provide a convenient way to apply cold therapy quickly and easily.
They have many benefits for any horse, so let’s take a look.
- Ice reduces inflammation
- Reduces damage to soft tissues
- Helps prevent or reduce the effects of laminitis
- Reduce swelling
- Pain reduction
Check out my article that reviews some of the best icing boots for horses.
What Are the Benefits of Ice Boots For Horses?
1. Reduce The Effects Of Repetitive Trauma
Using ice boots on horse legs after exercise, especially when it is strenuous, will help reduce the effects of repetitive trauma caused by hard work. Essentially, they can prevent injury or at least reduce the severity.
Using cold treatment isn’t just for the lower leg, but it is also beneficial to the hocks, stifles, and large muscles. Ice boots are a great way to put cold packs on the cannon bones quickly.
There is a different type of ice boot designed to fit over various parts of the horse.
2. Prevent Laminitis
Laminitis is one of the worst affiliations a horse can suffer. It is hard to treat and incredibly painful. One trigger is the release of toxins. (2)
Toxin release can be triggered by several things, including overeating of grain, surgery, too much lush grass, colic, retained placenta, too much weight bearing on one leg, and too much use of corticosteroids. (2)
One of the benefits of ice boots for horses is reducing the effect these released toxins can have. It can help delay laminitis or reduce the damage that they do.
Dr. Julia Montgomery says,
“There’s quite a bit of evidence that icing the feet is an effective way to prevent laminitis in horses that are at risk, and there is some evidence that it helps in treating acute laminitis” (3)
Ice therapy is a standard gold therapy for laminitis.
3. Reduce Swelling
One of the go-to treatments horse owners use when their horse has leg swelling is cold water therapy by hosting the affected area for around 20 minutes.
Ice boots allow you to apply a more effective and efficient cold therapy. The colder temperature of the boots gets better results, and you can stick them on your horse while you do something else instead of standing there holding a hose.
4. Reduce Pain
With bruises, trauma, hard work, soft tissue injuries, and disease comes pain. Icing sessions will help reduce the pain associated with these common issues.
Many equestrians love Ice-Vibe Horseware boots for their added vibration feature, which is said to help reduce soreness and improve circulation.
5. Reduce Inflammation
Cryotherapy is one of the best ways to reduce inflammation. This inflammation can be caused by an injury, exercise, illness, or repeated impact from the ground.
In many cases, you will not see this inflammation, but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening in the joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments of your horse.
Using ice packs will help prevent inflammation and reduce existing inflammation. It benefits any horse doing exercise, not just equine athletes competing at high levels.
They are excellent for treating tendon injuries, which will have inflammation but something present with little or no swelling.
6. Temporarily Reduces Blood Flow
A temporary reduction of blood flow will help stifle an inflammatory response after an acute injury or intense exercise.
This slows the blood vessel leakage that is occurring, which leads to pain and inflammation. When the cold stops, a fresh flow of blood returns, carrying white blood cells that essentially help clear away dead and damaging cells.
While, in general, you want good circulation, a temporary reduction to certain areas helps the body recover and reduces damage.
You don’t have to spend a lot on an equine ice boot. You can make DIY ice boots for horses without spending much, and they still work great!
How Long Do You Leave Ice Boots On?
Ice boots should be left on for only 20 to 30 minutes for the most effective therapy. Leaving them on longer will not increase the benefits and may, in fact, be detrimental.
For some injuries, vets will recommend multiple icing sessions per day. The only exception to the 30-minute rule is when treating laminitis. In these cases, vets will recommend continuous icing for hours. (1)
Learn more from a vet about what issues can cause swollen joints in horses.
When Not To Use Ice Boots?
While ice is nearly always a beneficial therapy for horses and will usually not do any harm, there are a few circumstances when you should not use it or at least consult your vet before proceeding.
Dr. Brendan Furlong says that “ice is contraindicated in the following situations:
- The injury has broken the skin.
- The injury site may be infected.
- An area of the hoof has sustained a laceration.
- The hoof has sustained damage that would soften in water and potentially worsen.” (1)
Due to their thinner skin, you must be extra cautious when using ice on younger horses, such as foals. When icing these horses, it is best to reduce the session time and use a wet towel under that ice pack.
If in any doubt, always speak to your vet first.
Do ice boots help with laminitis?
Yes! Especially hoof ice boots. In fact, ice is one of the main treatments for preventing and treating laminitis. In these cases, the horse’s foot will be iced for as long as possible.
Is it necessary to wear ice boots when riding a horse?
No, and generally, you should not do this. Ice boots are used post-exercise or when treating a leg injury. It is most common to use them after strenuous exercises such as jumping and galloping.
Can you put ice boots on wet legs?
Yes! In fact, putting ice boots on wet legs is better than on dry legs. Wet legs help improve the effects of cold therapy.
The benefits of ice for horses are well known. It is essential to ice treatments to your training and management.
It is not necessary to go overboard and ice after every ride, but integrating into your horse’s life when it will benefit is an important part of its care.
Do you use ice boots for your horses? I’d love to hear about your experience below
- 1. Evers Conrad S. Ice, Ice, Baby [Internet]. United States Dressage Federation. [cited 2022 Oct 29]. Available from: https://www.usdf.org/EduDocs/The-Horse/Ice_Ice_Baby.pdf
- 2. Laminitis: Prevention & Treatment | AAEP [Internet]. aaep.org. Available from: https://aaep.org/horsehealth/laminitis-prevention-treatment
- 3. Lewis J. Putting laminitis on ice [Internet]. Townsend Equine Health Research Fund. 2021 [cited 2022 Oct 29]. Available from: https://tehrf.ca/2021/12/07/putting-laminitis-on-ice/
Siun is an all-around animal lover, with a passion for horses. She grew up in the United States, competing in the hunters, equitation, and jumpers. Now living in Ireland, she competes with her own showjumping horses. She is experienced in the care and training of horses, as well as teaching riding lessons. She loves to combine her love for horses with her work. When not working, Siun will be found at the stables, rain or shine.
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