When the Going Gets Hard – Managing Horses Legs

When the Going Gets Hard – Managing Horses Legs
5 July 2017 | Foran Equine

The summer season is now getting into full swing whatever equestrian sport it is that you indulge in!

Having walked cross country tracks, working hunter courses and many miles of footpath over the weekend it is obvious that the ground conditions have now changed from mud to quite firm in places very quickly.

Keeping your horse sound for the competition season is one of the primary goals of any horse owner. The firmer conditions under foot cause increased leg problems in horses while they are cantering and especially when jumping.

Symptoms of Leg Problems in Horses

Sore shins

The most common presentation of concussion causing pain in the long bones is sore shins. This problem is often seen in racehorses, particularly flat horses going at high speed over the firmer summer ground. Sore shins may be difficult to detect; here’s an article we wrote earlier that can help you understand sore shins in horses.

Many horses with sore shins will be very sore when you feel the front of their legs but may not appear to be lame. They often look to have a short stride, this is because sore shins generally affect both front legs and so both legs are equally lame. Prevention of sore shins is of course better than cure. To reduce the incidence of sore shins some veterinary intervention may be needed but cold hosing and applying Ice-Clay after fast exercise can be of great benefit. Nutritional supplementation with Osteo-Glycan also decrease the incidence of sore shins, particularly in young horses.

Swollen Joints

The turning and twisting nature of dressage tests and jumping causes increased pressure on the joints of the legs. Joints are essentially parts of the body where bones meet, in order for bones to meet without causing pain the body has created joint fluid as a natural lubricant and absorber of the forces of concussion. Mild concussion through the joints causes the joint to have to work harder to produce enough joint oil to stay lubricated and moving well. This is why you may find some swelling or heat in your horses legs the morning after a competition. For many horses the treatment is some rest and lots of hosing with cold water.

Pain Relief for Horses

Cold Hosing

Horsemen and women have cold hosed horse’s legs since the invention of the hose, and before that many horses were tethered in rivers across the country for the healing benefits of running cold water on sore and tired legs. The science behind cold hosing of horses is simple and very effective, it reduces the heat and inflammation in the leg and joints.

The effect of cold hosing may be short-lived. The initial effect of reducing the heat in a joint is achieved within the first 10 to 20 minutes of hosing, so hosing often rather than for long periods is more effective. Considering the time taken to cold hose regularly and increasing water costs it is useful to have a product in your first aid kit that can help to keep joints cool and reduce swelling without hours of standing at the tap.


Ice-Clay is a ready to use cooling leg clay. Apply the Ice-Clay in a thick layer by rubbing against the hair after hosing. Ice-Clay also contains tea tree oil which is a natural antiseptic.

If your horse has a swollen joint, examine the leg carefully first to identify any wounds or scratches which may have caused the swelling. Do not apply Ice-Clay to areas of broken skins, cuts or grazes.

Cold hosing and Ice-Clay are therapies that can work to reduce pain and swelling of horses joints when used immediately after exercise. This is particularly effective in horses with a history of sore shins or that have a history of puffy joints after competing, or if the ground has been firmer than usual. Ice-Clay can also be applied to joints that are swollen the morning after work, after 10 to 20 minutes of cold hosing for maximum effect.

Horses with ongoing issues relating to swollen joints may benefit from adding Ost-o-Flex to the dirt to promote healthy joints.

Ice-Clay may be useful as part of a treatment program in treating some tendon injuries, capped hocks and splints.

If your horse is lame or has a swollen joint that is painful to touch veterinary attention is required.

Ice-Clay is SAFE to use in horses competing. There is no withdrawal period pre-competition.

If you’re looking for any further advice on how to deal with leg problems in horses, why not get in touch with one of our equine nutrition experts.

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