What’s the big deal about icing horse hooves?  When would I need to do this?

If you have ever seen a horse with laminitis, you understand the agony and suffering that goes on.  Doing everything you can to prevent such a situation will help your horse have a better life!  So basically, in a nutshell, the real reason to ice your horse’s hooves is to make sure they don’t fall off.  Well, not literally, anyway. 


Boots are one way to get this done. 

Your horse’s hooves are designed to carry his enormous body on four tiny little tootsies, and then we climb on board and ask them to run fast and jump high.  But riding is not the only circumstance in which case your horse’s hooves can use some ice therapy.  Many things can influence the likelihood that laminitis can develop, so ice your horse’s hooves proactively.  And, as always, call your Veterinarian for a complete diagnosis and treatment plan.  It’s time to ice if your horse has or does any of these things:


  • Fever.  The inflammation that occurs in your horse’s body during a fever can spread rapidly into the hooves via the enzymes that are involved in the inflammation process.  



Regular monitoring of your horse's temp will alert you to a fever long before he tells you. 


  • Diarrhea.  Same scenario here.  Diarrhea can upset your horse’s entire system and lead to dehydration, organ failure, and laminitis.  Act fast. 


  • Working on hard ground.  Frozen ground, hard ground, rocky ground, a surface that is new for your horse…you get the idea.  Concussion of the hoof can create pain, inflammation, and worse in the hoof.  It may be a simple bruise, it may be laminitis, but it can be helped with icing of the hoof. You may have heard the term road founder, which is a case of laminitis from hard ground.


  • Injuries.  It might be that your horse is cast, has been on a trailer for days, was kicked or stepped on, has a soft tissue injury in the hoof…etc.  This can create a scenario for pain and damage to occur to the hoof.  While it seems like a tough structure, the hoof can be injured.  Ice therapy reduces inflammation, which is also a handy way to reduce the amount of pain your horse experiences. 



The inside of an ice boot.  Ice reduces inflammation, which is good for all parts of your horse, especially his feet.  Ice is also a pain reliever.



  • Injury to the opposite leg.  Lameness or injury that causes your horse to be non weight bearing (three legged) shifts dangerous amounts of weight to the healthy and un-injured leg.  All of that weight can cause laminitis in the healthy leg.  A prime example of this is the horse that steps on a nail or screw - the infection in the hoof is beyond painful, causing all of your horse’s weight to shift to the healthy leg.  This is a definite time to call the Veterinarian!



Hard ground can lead to sore hooves. 


  • Binge eating.  So your horse got into the feed room, or he managed to get out of his grazing muzzle and nom down on some grass.  This sends a cascade of events through his gut and into his hooves that can lead to laminitis.  Ice right away and call the Veterinarian for this emergency.  (PS - this goes for binge eating hay, too…a horse that doesn't normally eat timothy but suddenly eats a boat load of it can have the same cascade of events.)  For more on the horse that binge eats a concentrated meal, read this. 



Always involve your Veterinarian with any questions or issues that you discover with your horse.  It’s always great to ice your horse’s hooves before you need to.  Work hard to prevent laminitis in your horse with daily care, lots of pampering, and preventive care.