What are some techniques for icing horses?
If you are unsure if your horse needs icing or cold therapy, talk to your Veterinarian and Trainer for guidance. The beauty of ice therapy is that it's a great way to cool your horse's legs after exercise, helping to prevent soft tissue and joint damage. There are many reasons to ice you horse, and many ways to do it. Usually, horses that are in training, for many disciplines, can benefit from some ice therapy on the legs after a work out. You might also need to ice your horse if there is a soft tissue injury. A third reason would be to help drop your horse's body temperature due to overheating or fever. In this case, consult with your Veterinarian immediately as a fever (temperature over 101.5) or an overheating horse (temperature above 104) can be life threatening.
One of the most common ways to cool legs down is just running cold water over the legs. This is a bit time consuming, and you have to be actively at the washrack. Other methods include ice boots, which are pouches that you fill with reusable ice packs and velcro on the leg, and sometimes the hock also. There are also inflatable ice boots, and even cooling "tape" that can be applied anywhere. The advantage to using an ice product instead of cold hosing is that most horses will stand quietly in the cross ties for the necessary 20 minutes, and you can catch up on tack cleaning, mane taming, cuddling, extra grooming, you name it. There are also cooling machines, which pump ice cold water into and out of leg boots. These usually require a power source and fresh ice cubes, and can be quite expensive, and some barns don't have access to ice cubes.
What ever method you choose, you will need to be sure to avoid scalding the skin and hair if the icing method is too cold or you leave it on too long. This is more common with homemade remedies, Ice Horse packs will not scald your horse (or you, as the case may be!) Some folks will wet the legs and/or the inside of the boots before starting, this will make the heat removal more efficient! To prevent leaving the ice on too long, I use the timer on my phone.
How do you like to ice your horse??