The Why and How of Icing Hooves
We may need to ice hooves for a variety of reasons, and in general, it’s good idea to ice many things on your horse as a preventative measure. This goes for tendons, hocks, and hooves! As my veterinarian always says, it’s easier and cheaper to prevent inflammation than to reduce it, and icing hooves fits that bill.
As a horse lover, you are often working with horses that are in daily work for their career as a show horse or a lesson horse or your own horse. It’s part of the daily routine to ice legs, hocks, and sometimes stifles and backs. Hooves may or not be included in this list, but it certainly is something to consider.
Specific instances for icing hooves
- Exercise on bad footing. There is a concussion in the hoof and up the leg with hard footing.
- A gallop on pavement (road founder), accidental or otherwise. This goes hand in hand with the hard footing scenario.
- Laminitis/founder. Most vets suggest that you ice your horse’s hooves for 24 to 72 hours – straight! This is pain relief and reduces inflammation in the hoof that can lead to the bones rotating.
- Any major upset of the digestive system (grain overload, constipation, diarrhea) is a reason for icimg hooves. There’s a direct line between digestive upsets or colics and laminitis.
- Fever. There is another direct line between fevers and laminitis. Icing your horse’s hooves put you squarely in the preventative column.
- Thin soles make for sore hooves, even on the best footing.
Get your vet involved with your horse’s hooves.
Of course, most of the above also warrant a call to your veterinarian, too. Your veterinarian can also help you decide how long is an appropriate time to be icing your horse’s hooves and how frequently to do that.
These are rectal exam gloves filled with ice cubes.
Train your horse before it’s an emergency
- You have a few options when icing hooves, and what you ultimately decide on will probably depend on your supplies, and also how agreeable your horse is to icing.
- In case you were wondering, your horse should be on board with icing everything from stem to stern for 20 minutes or so, including hooves. It’s a good idea to introduce boots and booties to your horse so that in cases of emergency so it’s not a training issue.
How to ice hooves:
- The old-fashioned feed bucket filled with ice and water. Effective, great coverage, and inexpensive! The downside is that not everyone has an ice maker in the barn. Another downside is you need to have constant supervision. For a laminitis case, hooves need to be iced continuously, and buckets are not ideal.
- Reusable ice packs. Ice packets are super easy to freeze and use, and conform nicely to the hooves. These stay cold for several hours and are held in by handy turbo velcro boots.
Keep those hooves on ice!
- Tendon boots that also cover the fetlock and the top of the hoof/coronary band area. There are a few brands of this type of boot out there, and these are great if you also need to do some tendon cooling! These are typically designed to hold reusable ice packs. The understanding is that it’s not as good as icing the hoof directly, but it will cool the blood going into the hoof.
- You can also make your own “container” with rectal exam gloves. Tie off the fingers, fill with about 8 inches of ice, and tie off the other end. Lay your ice pack across the hoof, and use the fingers and the tied-off end to secure behind the pastern when you know your horse won’t “wig out” with a bag of ice around his hoof. The downside is that the gloves are thin, and any moving will typically either tear the bag or freak your horse out.
- You can pick up some sturdy horse leg sleeves that you fill with ice cubes, cold water, or ice packs, too.
Hopefully, you will never need to ice for laminitis, but that’s not the only reason to use ice for hooves.
For the easiest way to soothe and ice hooves, you have some options. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases, which doesn’t cost you anything extra! I absolutely appreciate your support!