The horses lower legs are filled with a range of complicated structures, in the form of a range of tendons, ligaments and joints. In fact, considering the size of the animal, the lower limb of the foreleg especially can be thought of as a point of weakness. As with all points of weakness, it is important that they are looked after. There are many products on the market that are used to cool, tighten and soothe the lower legs of horses and ponies after exercise. The main aim of all the available products is to reduce the temperature within the leg as quickly as possible to reduce the damage done by exercise and to hasten healing.
During exercise, it is a well documented fact that, the temperature within the tendons of the lower front leg can reach over 40oC. At this temperature enzymes within the tendon are damaged and the fibres are weakened. Over time this weakening will increase the risk of a full blown tendon injury. Reducing the temperature of the tendon immediately after exercise can reduce the risk of damage. The available products can be divided into types:
1. Leg Clays
For example Ice Tight, Like Ice and Ice Cool, leg clays are layered onto the lower legs after exercise, wrapped in paper or plastic and bandaged. Clays have to be washed off the next morning, but contain ingredients that are cooling and soothing. The bandaging introduces warmth and compression to boost circulation after the clay has cooled.
2. Ice Gels
For example Green Ice Gel, White Ice and any witch hazel and arnica gels. Leg gels don't require bandaging and therefore don't apply compression to potential injury sites. However, witch hazel and arnica have astringent and anti inflammatory properties whilst other ingredients and alcohol bases act to draw heat out of the leg.
3. Ice Bandages and Boots
For example Coolsport Boots, Kitt or Woof Wear Therapy Boots, Neo Ice bandages and Equin Ice. These boots and bandages apply cooling therapy and compression to the lower legs of the horses. They each will suit different ways of managing horses after exercise.
4. Ice Vibe Boots
New on the market the ice vibe boots combine ice packs to cool the legs with vibration to increase circulation to the area. Increasing the circulation, in conjunction with cold therapy, will help increase healing rates and reduce the risk of injury. The Ice Vibe boots can also be used to warm up the legs prior to exercise (without the ice packs).