Is is Beneficial to Keep Legs Warm?

Louise Butcher

We always talk about keeping horse legs cool with HUSK horse boots and bandages, but what about keeping them warm?  Particularly in the Winter, is it dangerous let horse legs get too cold?

To start with Kentucky Equine Research quote that although horses sometimes stand in deep snow, their lower limbs and hooves almost never suffer damage from the cold. This is because the legs below the knees and hocks are made up mostly of bones and tendons, tissues that don’t freeze easily. In extreme cold temperatures, blood-shunting mechanisms in the hooves alter circulation patterns to preserve body warmth, and the wall of the hoof protects the fleshy part within that’s more susceptible to the cold.  So it’s clear that horse legs are designed to minimise effects of cold weather unlike human legs for example.  Therefore it’s appears less of a need to wrap your horse or pony’s legs up in the field or stable in the Winter.

What about exercise?  Severn Edge Vets discuss the value of warmed tendons and ligaments for exercise to minimise the risk of injury due to the enhancement of flexibility as the tissue warms up.  However we must remember that the body does this naturally, so a good warming up exercise prior to work is perfectly ample to prepare the horse and minimise risk of injury through more intense exercise. It seems that for speed people use horse boots and bandages to substitute this natural phenomenon, the risk then leading to OVER heating of tissues and then OVER flexibility, as Katie Baxter Vet Physio of South Downs Veterinary concludes in her trial.  Katie found that after only 15min of canter with bandages in an atmospheric temperature of 16-17 degrees, leg temperatures had already reached and surpassed 40 degrees.  Plus she showed concern over the speed that these temperatures were reached, leading to little time for the body to adjust, and the fact that after 15min the temperature increase had not plateaued as did the temperatures of bare legs after 15min of canter.  This suggested that with insulating leg protection there was no ceiling to the temperatures that could be reached after 15 min of exercise, and most of us exercise with our horses for much longer than 15min.  Over heating, as we know at HUSK, then enhances the risk of injury through over flexibility leading to strains and tears.

So what is the difference between leg protection used in Summer or Winter?  We at HUSK would suggest nothing based on the evidence.  The only difference to be that horses need a more progressive warm up in Winter vs and more progressive cool down in Summer.  Horse boots and bandages should not be used as a tool to warm legs nor cool them down in our opinion at HUSK, as studies show that horses and ponies are naturally perfectly well equipped to achieve this themselves.  So as long as we as riders allow them ample time to warm up and cool down as part of our exercise routine, we should not need any artificial aids to help.  Our opinion based on research is that artificial aids for warming or cooling causes too much of an extreme change in temperature, which can lead to further damage through extreme contraction or expansion of tissue, which can cause weakness, pressure on the circulatory system and heart, or simply pressure on the emotional state of the horse through sudden discomfort.  

HUSK breathable horse boots and bandages use HUSK’s patented air flow technology to allow horse legs to work naturally during exercise. Links here to browse our kit: https://www.thehusk.co.uk/collections/all

links to quotes text below:

Kentucky Equine Research

Katie Baxter 

Severn Edge Vets



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