What is 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. It’s horrible. 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. 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 that’s 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 if your horse has or does any of these things:
One way to do things, a handy boot.
- 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.
- 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 bruise, it may be laminitis, but it can be helped with proactive icing of the hoof.
- 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.
- 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 un-injured leg. Laminitis is common in these situations. A prime example of this is the horse that steps on a nail or screw - the infection in the hoof is beyond painful, causing non weight bearing in the other healthy hoof. This is a definite time to call the Veterinarian!
- Binge eating. So your horse got into the feed room, or he managed to get out of his grazing muzzle and nom down on 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, read this!
The tricky old fashioned way to do things.
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.
Do you have a routine for icing your horse's hooves?