Just as you would ice a sore knee or back after a good work-out, it is good practice to ice your horse’s legs after a conditioning set or other strenuous workout. Icing can help alleviate or prevent soreness and inflammation and contributes to having nice, tight legs even after a hard work.
Not every horse loves to stand with their legs in freezing cold ice water, though. Some horses will put up with anything, while others might take some persuasion. Often, you’ll find that once your horse learns what icing is all about, he will eventually begin to stand still provided he has a wheelbarrow full of hay in front of him!
What if your horse is particularly fidgety when it comes to icing? Here are some tips that we’ve tried with the more antsy horses:
1. Skip the tubs or ice boots. Many people will argue the merits of a tub full of ice and water versus wraps or boots. This choice is typically a personal one, but if your horse is not prone to standing still, ice wraps or boots will save you a headache if your horse happens to move around a bit. The initial shock and level of coldness is also less intense with a boot — though you must ensure that you’re putting your ice boots on correctly to properly distribute the ice.
2. Make them more comfortable. If you’d still like to be able to use a tub or the tall ice boots, consider icing your horse where he is most comfortable. Perhaps he’d rather stand in his stall where he can eat his dinner? Maybe he’d rather you hold him instead of tying him to the trailer? Take into account the times when your horse seems most relaxed and try moving to a different location.
3. Practice. Not all horses who will stand for hours were born with that habit. Several horses will initially balk at the idea of standing in ice, but many eventually decide that it’s an activity they can tolerate. Try placing just one leg at a time in the ice bucket, leaving it in for an increasing amount of time, and keeping the sessions short initially.
If your horse is fidgety to begin with, practicing standing still without any ice involved would be a good place to begin as well. If you need some assistance with this, you can check out the August issue of Heels Down Magazine for tips on training your horse to stand in the cross ties. You can find out more about subscribing by clicking here.