The Benefits of Cold Application on Horses

The main purpose of cold therapies is to constrict the capillaries and reduce blood flow to the area. This is known as vasoconstriction.

This can help to:

– Reduce haemorrhage (blood loss, which can lead to bruising)
– reduced blood flow means fewer white blood cells, which in turn helps to reduce the inflammatory response
– nerve fibre conduction falls, this reduces pain perception (based on the pain gate theory)
– ice with compression can help prevent fluid leakage from damaged tissue

When should I use it?

Cold is most suited to use for acute conditions (meaning they haven’t been there very long). Such as:
– A new injury; a knock, bump or kick
– New swelling in a tendon
– Bites and stings
– Burns
– Muscle strain
After exercise to aid recovery

During strenuous exercise the tendons of the horses’ legs can increase to a level where damage may occur. If the horse is wearing boots this can be especially dangerous as it is harder for the heat to escape and therefore for the legs to cool down. Using cold therapy after strenuous exercise can help prevent further temperature increase of the tendons and help aid recovery.

When a muscle is worked tiny tears in the muscle fibres occur. If left untreated post exercise this can cause a delayed onset of muscle soreness that can be uncomfortable and may make your horse feel stiff and sensitive. If left untreated long term this can lead to muscle knots and trigger points. One of the best ways to prevent this is to cool the main muscle groups involved in exercise (will be dependent on what exercises you have done with your horse) and to stretch the muscles later that day and the following morning.


Where can I apply it?

Cold can be applied almost anywhere it is needed, as long as you can keep it in place for the required treatment time. Cold is most commonly used on the lower limb after exercise to prevent tendons heating further after they have been worked. It can also be used anywhere over the body for bites, kicks, knocks and bruises.

When applying cold it is important to keep checking the temperature of the cold pack. This is because as it starts to increase in temperature it will no longer have the desired effect. The time this takes will vary, depending on what applicator is used.

It is important to always have material between an ice pack and your horses’ skin to prevent ice burns.


When should I NOT use it?

Cold can have an adverse effect if used:
– before exercise, as it can increase the risk of muscle or tendon strains
– if left on too applicators can warm up and start to have the opposite effect


Find out where, when and why heat therapy should be used HERE.

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