What are the best ways to ice hooves?
We may need to ice hooves for a variety of reasons, and in general it's good idea to ice many things on your horse as a preventative measure. This goes for tendons, hocks, and hooves! As my Veterinarian always says, it’s easier and cheaper to prevent inflammation than it is to reduce it.
As a Groom, you are often working with horses that are in daily work for their career as a show horse. It’s part of the daily routine to ice legs and hocks, and sometimes stifles and backs. Hooves may or not be included in this list, but it certainly is something to consider.
Specific instances in which you may want to ice hooves include the following:
- Exercise on bad footing or strenuous exercise
- A gallop on pavement (road founder), accidental or otherwise...
- Any major upset of the digestive system (grain overload, constipation, diarrhea)
Of course most of the above also warrant a call to your Veterinarian, too. Your Veterinarian can also help you decide how long is an appropriate time to be icing and how frequently.
These are rectal exam gloves filled with ice cubes.
You have a few option when icing hooves, and what you ultimately decide on will probably depend on your supplies, and also how agreeable your horse is to icing. In case you were wondering, your horse should be on board with icing everying from stem to stern for 20 minutes or so, including hooves. It's a good idea to introduce boots and booties to your horse so that in cases of emergency it's not a training issue.
How to ice hooves:
- The old fashioned feed bucket filled with ice and water. Effective, great coverage, and inexpensive! The downside is that not everyone has an ice maker in the barn. Another downside is you need to have constant supervision. For a laminitis case, hooves need to be in ice for 24-48 hours so this is a bucket is a no-to. And for pete's sake big buckets could also contain horse eating creatures, so a horse that stands quietly may be a pipe dream.
- Reusable ice packs. First Ice (made by Ice Horse) ice packets are super easy to freeze and use, and conform nicely to the hooves. These stay cold for several hours and are held in by handy turbo velcro boots.
Keep those hooves on ice!
- Tendon boots that also cover the fetlock and the top of the hoof/coronary band area. There are a few brands of this type of boot out there, and these are great if you also need to do some tendon cooling as well! These are typically designed to hold reusable ice packs. The understanding is that it's not as good as icing the hoof directly, but it will cool the blood going into the hoof.
- You can also make your own “container” with rectal exam gloves. Tie off the fingers, fill with about 8 inches of ice, and tie off the other end. Lay your ice pack across the hoof, and use the fingers and the tied off end to secure behind the pastern when you know your horse won’t “wig out” with a bag of ice around his hoof. The downside is that the gloves are thin, and any moving will typically either tear the bag, or freak your horse out.
How do you normally ice hooves?