ice or heat for horses


Does your horse need ice or heat?


  • In a horse world with easy questions and even easier answers, it’s hard to say if your horse needs ice or heat on an injury. But here are some guidelines that can point you and your veterinarian in the right direction. We want to always take care of and possibly pamper our horses, and that means caring for them in times of injury, or as a preventative measure.


horse wearing front ice boots showing the inner layer and the outer layer

Ice also acts as an analgesic – so your horse feels less pain! #bonus


Do you choose ice or heat?


Ice or other cooling techniques are used for acute injuries.


  • Acute injuries occur suddenly. A good example of this is the horse that is doing his best rodeo impression during turnout and careens into a fence. When you take him to the barn, he has a swollen lower leg and a hitch in his giddy-up.


  • You may also want to cool your horse’s legs after he exercises. This takes the heat out of your horse’s soft tissues, tendons, and ligaments to help prevent long-term damage.


Heat can sometimes benefit chronic injuries.


  • Chronic injuries or conditions develop over time. A good example of a chronic condition in a horse is arthritis of the hocks. Heat can often help your horse’s back loosen up for riding. This is especially helpful if your horse likes to be cold backed before a ride.


warming hot pack on top of an ice pack

You can find heating packs, just like you can find cooling packs.


Horses are masters of “getting by” until it really stinking hurts.


  • If a horse has a sore left hock, he may appear and feel sound for months, until possibly his right front tendons are a bit sore from compensating, and then he becomes “off”. You may think, oh, he has an acute tendon injury, or you may find the hock soreness first. It’s difficult to determine the egg vs. chicken in this scenario, therefore it’s hard to determine a chronic vs. acute situation. You and your veterinarian together can figure it out, and with that information, proceed forward with an icing or heating plan.


How to cool and ice your horse:



  • Ice packs


  • Cold water compression machines



nozzle and hose rinsing off a horses front legs

Cold hosing is one way to cool an injury! It just takes hands-on time and can use a lot of precious water. But it’s great in a pinch, and will help your ice product of choice work better if your horse’s leg is wet.


And some ways to go about heating up your horse:


  • Sweats
  • Therapeutic ultrasound
  • Some classes of lasers
  • DMSO
  • Liniments
  • Heat packs



It’s not uncommon to treat some injuries with both cooling and heating.


  • You may find that you initially treat an acute injury with cooling methods (usually the case), and after the initial inflammation goes away, your veterinarian prescribes a sweat or other heating treatment.


  • You may also find that your veterinarian suggests icing immediately after exercise, and treating with heat later in the day. This may be the case for arthritis.


  • It’s important to remember that when icing and heating, more is not always better. Using ice for more than 30-ish minutes can actually increase inflammation, and using a heating treatment like DMSO in the initial stages of swelling can add more swelling to the injury. You may find that your horse needs short treatments several times a day.


go shopping button for horse products

If you need to stock up on some leg care stuff, use these handy links! As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases, and it’s no extra cost to you. And I totally thank you!

Uptite Poultice


Sore No More Liniment Bottle – pick your size

Back on Track Limber Up LiniMint Leg and Body Brace


Ice Horse Pair of Stifle Wraps for Equine Therapy – Comes with 4 Ice Packs

 Hock Wraps for Equine Therapy – Comes with 6 Ice Packs




Ice Horse Pair of Tendon Leg Wraps for Equine Therapy – Comes with 4 Ice Packs


These ice packs make for easy cooling of your horse’s legs and hooves. They last for hours.

This tall boot can be filled with ice or ice packs to help the horse with laminitis.


These affordable boots can be filled with ice to help your horse.

Back On Track mesh sheets acts like a warming treatment

Easy to use Back On Track boots


This is an evaporative cooling blanket for horses

Another cooling blanket option for horses

Thank you!