–Icing. When professional football or basketball players finish a tough practice or game, they don’t always hit the showers first. Many times, they head straight for an ice bath. Numerous studies have shown that ice therapy after physical exertion reduces the risk of injuries and speeds recovery. Quite simply, athletes who ice themselves come back better the next day than those who do not.
Adding Ice to the Ice Compression Socks. Compression sock is on the horse, with a pocket attached for filling with ice all around the leg from hock to hoof.
Physiologically speaking, icing does a few things. For starters, it’s analgesic, meaning it reduces pain associated with the activity. But its most important effect is to encourage vasoconstriction. When a horse is working hard, the capillaries that extend into his muscles, tendons and ligaments expand to bring in needed blood. You need that wide-open flow in the height of activity, but when the activity is done, that excess flow will persist—even for hours—and will bring in now-unneeded fluid that contains mediators and enzymes associated with inflammation. You don’t want that sitting around in tissues. Not only does it provoke an inflammatory process, but pooling fluids will stretch tissues, making them less elastic over time. Once you lose the elasticity in tissues, particularly in the lower limbs, you can’t regain it, and the horse may then be prone to fluid accumulation—known as “stocking up.” The sooner we can get them back to their baseline circulation the better, and icing helps with that.
excerpt taken from: EQUUS issue #451, April 2015.
Front and Hind Hidez Ice Compression Socks
Icing is one of the few therapies allowed in international competition, but hard-working horses at all levels can benefit from cold therapy.
If you’ve ever iced a sore muscle or swollen ankle, then you’ve experienced firsthand the pain-relieving effects. Visit any training room for high-profile human athletes, and cold therapy will be part of the regimen.
But there are conflicting reports on the efficacy of ice for humans when it comes to improving recovery, and the research on ice and horses has mostly been limited to laminitis. In a world filled with high-tech therapeutic advances, is something as simple as ice really worth the time and effort?
“Absolutely,” said Max Corcoran, former head groom for Olympian eventer Karen O’Connor for 11 years. “In our barn, this was standard operating procedure. In my opinion, you can definitely said Max Corcoran, former head groom for Olympian eventer Karen O’Connor for 11 years. “In our barn, this was standard operating procedure. In my opinion, you can definitely prolong a horse’s career and have him be more successful by using it.”
Gil Merrick served as the U.S. Equestrian Federation High Performance Dressage Director and U.S. Team Leader for five years, including during the 2006 FEI World Equestrian Games (Germany), 2007 Pan American Games (Rio de Janeiro), and 2008 Olympic Games (Hong Kong).
“Cold therapy is used by every international team at every competition,” said Merrick. “Without a doubt, cold therapy got some of our team horses through. It’s called high performance for a reason, and the demands on the horses are high. On the international stage where therapeutic medication is not allowed to help with recovery or minor pain relief, icing is the primary way to maintain the horses’ comfort and performance.”
But cold therapy isn’t just for Olympic mounts. But cold therapy isn’t just for Olympic mounts. “Any level of performance horse can benefit, and not just at shows,” said Corcoran. “Maybe your horse has a chronic ankle soreness or is coming back from an injury. In our barn, those types of horses always got iced after galloping or jumping, even at home—part of an almost daily routine. Any inflammation you can keep out of those legs is going to benefit them.”
It’s a question of when, not if, when you’re talking about horse injuries. While a single bad step may cause an acute injury such as a ligament strain or tendon tear, simple wear and tear over time can have the same result. Therefore, minimizing the horse’s inflammatory response to stress may be key to preventing further injury.
Heat is generated in a horse’s body, including in the lower legs, as part of a normal physiological reaction to exercise. During periods of exertion such as racing, cross-country galloping or a challenging jumping round, the stress on joints, ligaments and tendons can injure tissue and activate inflammation, which is actually a protective response to damage. Inflammation helps the body remove damaged tissue components so it can begin to heal. Damaged capillaries leak fluid into surrounding tissue, and additional responses are provoked from the horse’s body to clean up the injured area. The leaking capillaries cause edema, or swelling.
Science has shown that some degree of inflammation is a normal and necessary part of the repair process, but too much can cause further tissue damage and prolong healing.
“The application of cold temperatures seems to act in a number of beneficial ways to assist with recovery,” said David Ramey, DVM, of Encino, Calif. “It cools tissue; lowers the metabolic rate of cells and decreases their demand for oxygen; lessens nerve signaling, causing temporary numbing and pain relief; and reduces the permeability of capillary walls, limiting the flow of enzymes and resulting reactions that cause swelling.”
The Best System Is The One You’ll Use
A wide variety of cold therapy products are on the market to help, ranging from simple wraps to Velcro boots, complex cooling machines, and Ice Compression socks, with an equally wide range of opinions about them.
“There are a thousand ways to get it done because each horse’s needs, as well as people’s preferences, are completely different,” said Corcoran, who, over the course of grooming during two Olympic Games, two Pan American Games and two World Equestrian Games, has utilized a multitude of methods of cold therapy for horses in her care.
In addition, technology in ice therapy has come a long way in recent years. Ice boots not only provide cold temperatures through long-lasting gel inserts, but also add therapeutic features such as magnets and battery-operated massage.
Additional products combine cold temperatures and compression. Many top riders and veterinarians swear by the approach.
“I prefer cold with compression over cold alone, especially intermittent compression which acts as a ‘pump’ to push edema out of the area while allowing for a flow of circulation back into the area,” said Christopherson. Others, like Corcoran, also found it effective but “somewhat cumbersome because of all the equipment.”
“The compression aspect is interesting and is fantastic for moving fluid out of an area when there’s edema,” said Ramey. “But in my opinion, if you have so much inflammation and damage that you have noticeable swelling in a leg, then you need to know why it’s happening, not just get rid of it and go on. That’s like sweeping dirt under the rug.”
Timing Is Everything
When utilizing cold therapy after an intense workout or injury, time can be of the essence.
- To assist with post-performance recovery, Corcoran said she’ll even put on easy-to-apply boots as soon as a horse finishes cross-country for the walk back to the barn. So how long should cold therapy be applied? Opinions vary. Some reports indicate that after only 20 minutes of exposure to cold, blood flow to a horse’s leg decreases by 25 percent.
- “In human medicine, the general consensus is that 20 to 30 minutes at a time is plenty, but horses are certainly less sensitive than people to the bad effects of cold,” Ramey said. “After you take the cold away, you can get a rebound hyperthermia effect where the limb will try to heat back up, so consistent application of cold may be best. There isn’t anyone that I know of who has completely answered this question through scientific study on horses, but in my practice I advise doing at least 30 minutes of continuous cold when treating swollen or sore limbs.”
While direct ice to skin contact could theoretically result in skin damage, horses generally aren’t exposed to ice for long enough in routine cold therapy for this to be an issue. In one laminitis study, horses were iced for 48 hours with no detrimental effects. “I have seen some skin damage from constant ice contact, but I have seen more burns from ‘sweating’ legs,” said Christopherson.
However, ice mixed with water, which will never dip below 32 degrees, isn’t cold enough to cause frost bite, so this reinforces the idea that the safest and most effective way to cool down a limb is through immersion in ice water.
The wide range of choices for cold therapy can be confusing, and some of the more technical set-ups are also quite expensive. How does an owner choose between a muck tub full of ice water, ice boots or a cold therapy compression system? Talk to your veterinarian about your horse’s physical condition and the possible, try different products prior to purchase.
Ramey noted that horse owners should consider ease of use too. “If a product is difficult to use on a regular basis, that can be an impediment to getting therapy done,” he said. “People are more likely to apply a therapy if it’s easy. You also need to decide if the product you’re considering is worth the investment for your particular application.”
Excerpts taken from: Ice Down To Ride On By: Jennifer M. Keeler Oct 3, 2013 – 10:15 AM
This is why we suggest and promote Hidez Ice Compression socks! Ease of use, easy to care for and:
- Same amazing benefit of compression wear
- Easy to put on and take off
- No wires, cords, batteries attached
- No need to worry about frozen packs
- No machines
- No need for a power outlet
- Ice from the knee or hock down past the fetlock
- No worry of these slipping down due to heavy duty, wide, adjustable Velcro above the knee/hock
- No heavy bags to tote around
- Nothing for a horse to get tangled in
- Machine washable. Line dry
- Easy to store