Both heat and cold can help to heal leg injuries. I want to explain just in case you don’t know, because I have not always understood this myself.  Applying cold helps most injuries in the first 24 to 48 hours following injury. That goes for you or your horse. Heat helps most after about three days or with chronic conditions. And as always, if in doubt please contact your veterinarian.

Applying cold to an injury decreases blood flow to the area. It also, makes blood go inward which can help for deep healing.  Cold can lessen bleeding and bruising, help to minimize inflammation and swelling, and provide pain relief.  The idea is to lower tissue temperature at least to 60 degrees but any reduction is helpful.

A rule of thumb for application of cold is 15 minutes on, 5 minutes off, until heat and swelling are somewhat reduced.  Repeat every five hours or so, or as recommended by your veterinarian. Be sure not to cause frostbite.

Here is some ideas how:  You can cold water hose directly to the area to chill it. This way does not get as cold but is still very good. There is also the use of ice. Either the real crushed variety or a chemical (blue ice) pack. Ice boots are another great idea. There are may variations.  Some have ice gel packs that work really great. (We use Bar - F Boots on our horses.  Check them out at Submerging the injured area into ice water is the best way, but not always possible.

There are also a variety of poultices and liniments that work in varying degrees to provide cold and draw out heat from a leg.  Some need bandaging and others don’t. Here at the Stairs Ranch we use products made by Hawthorne. You can check into them at 

Now for heat – Heat helps most 72 hours after injury. Heat increases blood flow and speeds healing and reduces pain...apply heat two or three times a day for up to 30 minutes. Your goal is to raise the tissue temperature to around 105  degrees or so.  Any temperature increase will be helpful. In general, dry heat can raise surface temperature higher, but moist heat is more penetrative.

Common methods of heat therapy: Hot water from a source directly onto the injured area is one way. Hot packing is another method. You can soak a towel in hot water, use a commercial hot pack or a hot water bottle. You can wrap the heat source to the leg or use a specialty boot that will hold a hot pack.

 A sweat wrap is another form of heat therapy that has been in use with horsemen for many many years. There are a variety of store bought or homemade preparations you can wrap with. Formulations may include common items found in your local feed or tack store. Again, Hawthorne has some great products for this and a great How-To catalog as well. ( You apply the preparation to the leg, following directions, and then wrap with a leg blanket and then a standing bandage.

I strongly suggest you get a professional’s advice if you do not know how to wrap properly. Not wrapping a horse’s leg correctly can cause lots of damage. So please contact an expert.

Cold and hot are great healing allies if used promptly and correctly. Hope some of my explanations have helped you in keeping your horse healthy and happy and his soreness at bay. 

God bless and Merry Christmas!

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