Following rigorous athletic exercise, the use of cold therapy helps to reduce inflammation, heat, swelling and pain. It is an excellent strategy for the distal limb of equine athletes, and especially for those that have suffered previous injuries. To enable cold to penetrate into deep tissues, an immersion in an ice bath is the most effective technique. However, the ease and simplicity of applying commercial ice boots ensures the best horse owner compliance.
A study evaluated the difference in temperatures between limbs that were iced with frozen gel wraps in a commercial boot and those that were not, on the same horse. [Quintanar, M.N.; Millar, T.; and Burd, M.A. Thermodynamic effects of commercially available ice boots. Open Veterinary Journal, (2018), Vol. 8(1): 5-8].
Ice boots (Professional’s Choice) were applied for 20 minutes, and a thermal imaging camera used to record temperatures of the metacarpal region at two-minute intervals following removal of the boot.
In six sport horses, the iced limbs achieved an 11 degree Fahrenheit difference from the control (non-iced) limbs, and the cooling effect was maintained for up to a mean time of 15 minutes following boot removal. Temperature differences between the iced limb and the control limb ranged from nearly 7 minutes to as long as 22 minutes. The surface temperature of the iced limbs was chilled effectively, as were soft tissues beneath the skin.
Further studies could help clarify if the tendon and ligament tissues also achieve sufficient cooling with this method.