The art behind cooling and warming the horse's legs – and when you do what!

Questions and thoughts often arise about when it is appropriate to cool the horse's legs and when it is better to warm them up instead. The uncertainty can contribute to treating a possible injury or overload incorrectly and then causing a bigger problem. But when should you do what?

Cooling the horse's legs

Cooling the horse's legs after a hard ride is a well-proven method, and the purpose is to prevent small irritations from developing into actual injuries. Because what happens when inflammation or overexertion has occurred is that it creates heat in the leg. And you want to get rid of this heat.

When you cool the horse's legs, the blood vessels constrict and blood flow decreases. This leads to reduced inflammation and swelling and is particularly beneficial after harder exertion as it proactively reduces the risk of, and prevents the development of, inflammation in the legs. One way that an overload can manifest is through an overexertion gall on the joint, and it needs to be cooled to contract more effectively. Cooling can also be used when you suspect an injury, for example due to swelling. If the swelling or condition does not go away, we recommend that you contact your vet for further examination.

Most of the studies carried out below in this show that the internal temperature of the legs increases by up to 16.5 degrees when you use leg protectors or bandages, which can aggravate the overload that can occur during the ride. Most people use protection on their legs during exercise. Therefore, it is even more important to keep track of how the legs and joints look after the ride and whether cooling is necessary.

Cooling horse legs with leg wraps soaked in water and frozen

So how do you cool the horse's legs?

A key rule is that it takes approximately 15-20 minutes of cooling per leg for the process to be effective. So how can you cool off your legs? There are different options:

  • Cooling gel or cooling clay
  • Cooling with water hose
  • Gaiters / bandages with cooling

Whichever method you use, you must keep an eye on the horse's skin so that no negative reaction or accident occurs. Using water from the water hose to cool the legs down is an effective method as new cooling is added all the time. But it can be difficult in practice with horses that have difficulty standing still or that easily experience discomfort and become anxious. Sensitive horses may also react to certain ingredients found in some cooling products (such as clays and gels). And it is also not recommended to apply ice directly to the bone.

Using gaiters/stable bandages with a cooling effect is a safe and comfortable way to cool the legs. Siccaro's multifunctional Sahara gaiters have a great cooling function that can be used after riding or as needed. You soak the inner pad and let it absorb the water properly before putting it in the freezer during the ride. About 1 hour later, when you finish riding, the pad is ready to use and is attached to the neoprene layer again before being put on the legs. After 15-20 minutes, you remove the gaiters again and the horse has nice cool legs.

Warming up the horse's legs

Heat works the opposite of cooling, as heat expands the horse's blood vessels, making blood flow more efficient and speeding up healing. The absolute best thing is actually to cool the bone first to reduce inflammation or swelling, wait and then rewarm the bone to help blood circulation. If the legs are healthy, you can warm them relatively quickly after cooling, but an injured leg may need several cooling sessions, as heat does not have a positive effect on a leg that is already hot and inflamed. For example, many riders choose to use stable bandages or to wrap healthy legs without signs of inflammation or swelling at night to support the circulation of healthy synovial fluid.

Horses can get bile in their legs for various reasons. This can be in connection with a change in food, poor blood circulation, overexertion or inflammation of the joints. One would like to increase the circulation in the legs with bile, with a reservation for whether the bile is warm, thereby showing signs of inflammation and exertion. As previously mentioned, these need to be cooled to treat the swelling and then reheated.

Warming horse legs with Sahara leg wraps

How do you warm up the horse's legs?

Warming up the legs is usually easier than cooling them down. The use of massage liniments or warming gels such as Arnica is a common method of effectively increasing circulation. But the most common method is to use stable bandages that can maintain the heating effect evenly throughout the night. Siccaro's multifunctional gaiters Sahara are not only suitable for cooling, but also for warming the legs. By removing the inner pad and placing the outer neoprene layer directly on the leg, the horse's own heat will reflect back onto the leg.

The neoprene layer contains the Fir-SkinT + technology, which, with the help of the free titanium particles, acts as a mirror for the heat from the legs. This increases blood circulation. The gaiter can be used for a shorter time, but also for longer periods such as overnight.

Worth mentioning

It is worth mentioning that the absolute best approach to injury prevention is to step. Pacing your horse forward and off for a longer period of time after a harder ride is a must for good health. The circulation that occurs in the legs when the horse strides increases the blood flow. And this transports nutrients around that keep the protective synovial fluid healthy. At the same time, the slag products are discharged instead of remaining and causing inflammation in the joint. You should ensure at least 15 minutes of walking after the ride to support the recovery process in an optimal way.

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