Playing it Cool
Looking for an easy-to-use, drug-free, inexpensive therapy that can minimise the effects of a recent trauma and accelerate recovery from existing injuries? Sounds too good to be true, right?
Truth is, you’ve probably already been using it but possibly weren’t aware of just how beneficial this simple treatment is. Cryotherapy or, more simply, cold therapy is a powerful tool which is often underutilised by horsemen and women despite its ability to alleviate soft tissue-related aches and pains in hardworking horses, aid in the healing of musculoskeletal injuries and to help prevent them.
We’ve all seen post-match interviews with athletes submerged in ice baths for the purposes of rapid recovery and to prevent potential injuries. Whilst coaxing our equine athletes into an ice bath may prove challenging, cold therapy has a number of benefits for horses and there are a number of techniques and products available for this purpose.
1. Immediate Relief & Reduced Inflammation
If you’ve ever twisted an ankle and applied an ice pack (or the mandatory pack of frozen peas that was never intended for consumption) shortly afterwards, you’ll attest to the benefits of cold therapy. Cold provides an analgesic effect, numbing the tissue it touches to provide instant pain relief. It also helps to prevent inflammation by restricting blood vessels at the injury site, reducing fluid build-up and shortening healing time.
Similarly for a horse who has knocked his fetlock, pulled a tendon or taken a kick to the hindquarters, cooling therapies will aid in easing the trauma and speed up recovery. In the case of acute injuries, time is of the essence. The sooner cold therapy can be applied to the area the better. If using ice, it should be applied for about 15 to 20 minutes at a time – not continuously as extended exposure to cold can damage tissues. Cooling products such as Iceman were developed with this in mind – allowing riders the peace of mind to apply the gel and leave it on without fear of causing further damage.
Cold therapy is still effective in aiding recovery and rehabilitation even after the acute stage of the injury has passed.
Similar to its vasoconstrictive effect on acute injuries, cold therapy aids in recovery but in a slightly different way. With recent trauma, constriction of blood vessels prevents excessive fluid build-up at the injury site, whereas in rehabilitating a horse it is the return of blood to the site once the cold has been removed that aids in recovery. It is the continuous cooling/warming cycle that speeds up healing so significantly, making it a critical part of the rehabilitation program.
3. Ongoing Maintenance
Cold therapy should become a consistent part of a horse’s wellness regime - especially after periods of strenuous athletic effort. During periods of hard exercise, capillaries expand to allow more blood to serve the muscles, tendons and ligaments but once exercise stops this excess fluid is unneeded and can result in inflammation and pain in both the short and long time. With the use of cold therapy immediately after periods of activity, you can restore the horses circulatory conditions faster and help prevent muscle fatigue.
Cold Therapy Methods
Regardless of which cold therapy technique you select, they all have the same goal: to lower the temperature of the targeted tissues.
Obviously, the simplest and most common forms of cold therapy are hosing (although unlikely to lower tissue temperatures to the desired range for maximum benefit), placing the horses leg in an ice bucket (which is a less “targeted” approach) or the use of ice boots or ice packs (which generally need to be kept frozen pre and post use).“
With all things considered, there is a cooling therapy which not only provides the targeted, healing benefits required, but also provides convenience for both horse and rider. Iceman cooling gel was developed specifically to provide the same cooling benefits of more traditional cold therapy methods with the added benefit of being readily available after exercise (when a tap or ice may not be at shows for example) and which doesn’t require refrigeration or for the horse to remain immobile after application.
The herbs used to formulate Iceman have long-been known to contain anti-inflammatory properties. Organically grown, these herbs combine in a non-sticky, pleasant-smelling blue gel, which initiates cold therapy. The gel is activated by light and therefore should not be covered by bandages – making it simple and convenient to apply (especially to those areas which otherwise would be difficult to bandage or apply an ice pack) as well as ensuring it is fool proof for grooms and amateurs to apply.
Whether for use in the treatment of immediate trauma (not open wounds), ongoing maintenance or for post-exercise relief and recovery, Iceman is a convenient and cost-effective treatement that should form part of your tack room and medical box contents.
*Iceman is available from your leading equine retailer or veterinary practice.