Today’s blog post comes from LEGISequine.com, and features Chestnut Hill trainer Beverly Jovais, and rider, Julie Garella. The post discusses new advances in cold therapies that aim at keeping horses sound and able to compete.
Cold Therapy Takes Equine Sports Medicine to the Next Level
Jumping is a demanding sport on both riders and horses. Where there is demand there is stress, and sometimes this leads to injury. Knowledgeable horsemen know that when our equine partners work hard or sustain an injury, icing contributes to recovery, reduces downtime, and encourages better performance. LEGISequine.com wants to bring you stories that provide useful information about horse care and valuable developments in technology to use with our horses. Chill out and read about some hot items to keep your horses cool, feeling good, and jumping great. If you ever have questions about these stories or insurance in general, give us a call and we’ll be happy to talk to you. We like talking horse to fellow owners and riders.
While ice boots, which provide some cooling effects, cold therapy machines such as Game Ready and Show Ready can really cool things off and provide quantifiable therapy to your horse. When dealing with an injury, the RICE motto (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) is still valuable advice, and both Game Ready and Show Ready provide both ice and compression.
“Every time the horse gets worked, he gets micro-tears in the tendons,” explains professional horseman Steve McAllister. He and his wife, Jenni, run Team McAllister, a successful hunter/jumper barn at the Flintridge Riding Club. They train all levels of horses from youngsters to grand prix winners. “We ice horses after every strenuous workout, and since we started using cold therapy machines, we’ve seen a great deal shorter recovery time. There’s no question it’s a benefit to any competitive program. It’s definitely worth the cost if you’re going to really be competitive with sport horses. Go to any major event, and you’ll see many people will have a cold therapy machine.”
Doctors specializing in sports medicine have proven the RICE regimen successful in helping human athletes recover from injuries and minimize healing time. Meanwhile, cold therapy has helped bridge the gap between human and equine sports medicine by introducing the element of compression. Seasoned veterinarians and world-class trainers alike value using cold therapy preemptively, applying it after a hard workout or competition to prevent injuries and accelerate the recovery process.
Equine Sports Medicine Specialist Douglas Novick, DVM, is a proponent of using cold therapy machines instead of ice boots. He noted, “They are effective because they are able to keep the temperature constantly cold, and the compression helps to push out the fluid that makes tissues swell. The pulsing compression action the machines use seems to work better to push the fluid out, reduce inflammation, and protect from tissue damage and therefore reduce pain and swelling.”
Although the both human and equine injuries can be treated similarly, they do have some differences. “You can’t elevate a horse’s leg,” Dr. Novick explains. “However, horses can actually have cold therapy applied for longer periods of time. In humans, applying cold therapy for more than 20 minutes becomes counterproductive because humans will switch from vasoconstriction to blood vessel dilation after 20 minutes. This change was not seen in horses.” When blood vessels open up, it increases blood flow and the temperature of the surrounding tissue rises.
Trainer Beverly Jovais owns a Game Ready system and her client, Julie Garella, owns Ice Horse, a manufacturer of ice boots. Beverly loves using the Game Ready system in conjunction with Ice Horse boots. “My horses work hard all day,” Beverly says, “so it helps them recover from a long day. They truly enjoy it.”
Beverly uses cold therapy both at the barn and at shows. She comments, “I love how Game Ready comes with a battery pack and a power adapter so we can use it at the shows, even without a power source.” She considers cold therapy the reason that her horses remain so sound. “The Ice Horse boots work amazingly well because the patented ice packs remain cold for a long time.”
The Game Ready cold therapy machine was originally created for human athletes, and the company launched products for equines in 2004. Game Ready is unique in that it uses cyclical compression instead of static compression. It is so effective that numerous trainers and vets endorse Game Ready, as seen on their website. In fact, Beverly credits her Game Ready machine in conjunction with her Ice Horse boots with keeping one of her horses in the show ring. “He had injured a suspensory and the vet thought he would reinjure it, but he is still showing with us today.”
The Game Ready company consulted veterinarian Mike Tomlinson when they developed the system for horses, and he had a hand in making sure it was safe and effective for his equine patients. “This product is amazingly effective,” he shares. “I’ve seen many horses’ careers saved because the Game Ready completely cured their injuries. You can use the boots anywhere on the horse’s body; I’ve even used it on a horse’s eye when he banged it in the stall. The Game Ready machine gets the cold into the tissues for more effective cooling than applying ice directly, without the pain the patient might feel when ice is applied to the skin. This machine might seem expensive, but it’s well worth the investment for high level competitors. You couldn’t do the Olympics without it.”
A fan of Game Ready, successful grand prix rider and trainer Susan Hutchison credits Game Ready as an integral part her program. “Game Ready is great because ice is a great healer and prevents problems,” she explains. “It can be used all over the horse’s body and it’s easy to use. My groom uses it on all our horses.”
Show Ready, another cold therapy machine, is considered by some to be even more straightforward and uncomplicated to use. “All of my youth riders can utilize the machine,” says Troy Peterson of Show Ready, “but what sets Show Ready apart from other products is that it is battery operated. It sits on a horse’s back like a saddle, so it can be used in a horse’s stall and not just the cross-ties.”
Steve and Jenni have both Game Ready and Show Ready machines, and they make good use of both. “The pressure it applies is good for therapy,” Steve says, “and users can choose the level of pressure or use none at all. With these machines, you know the temperature of boots will stay below 40 degrees, which is necessary for it to be therapeutic. With ice boots you can’t be sure how cold they are, and they gradually warm up.”
Using both machines gives Steve a good basis for comparison between the two. “I like the ease of use of the Show Ready,” he says. “It sits on the horse’s back, so you don’t have to watch them quite as closely as you do with the Game Ready, which sits on the floor. However, the Game Ready is a better made machine. It applies pressure a little better, has more settings, and the boots are a little more solidly made.” Both machines are easy to use and to set up on the horses.
This portability allows Show Ready to be used on-the-go at horse shows or wherever needed and comes with rechargeable batteries. Game Ready is equipped with both a power cord and a rechargeable battery. Although Game Ready machines are a bit pricier than Show Ready, they can be rented or financed. Cold therapy may come at price, but veterinarians and riders alike consider it well worth the price to keep their equine athletes in the ring.
Marnye Langer, Sarah Berry, and Matt Harris of LEGISequine.com don’t just work in the horse industry, they live it. Marnye’s mother was a professional horseman, and Marnye competes in hunters, equitation, and jumpers up to the grand prix level. Sarah competes in jumpers and eventing, plus she has worked as a show secretary and scoreboard operator.
Matt showed extensively as a junior and worked as a professional horseman, plus he spent time as a barn manager and attended many of the top shows. Matt is a respected USEF Jumper Judge and announcer at shows around the country.
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