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Heat And Your Horse’s Legs: The Role of Exercise Boots and Ice Boots

Many riders know that their horses’ legs heat up during exercise, and it’s common for horses’ legs to be cooled after fast work, competitions, or an intense schooling session. How can we create an even balance - keep legs cooler during exercise and use ice for recovery afterwards? This article explains the role that well-vented exercise boots can play, along with ice boots.

How Hot Do The Horse’s Tendons Get During Exercise?

As your horse moves, the tendons in the lower legs, such as the Superficial Digital Flexor Tendon (SDFT) and the Deep Digital Flexor Tendon (DDFT) stretch and recoil. This generates heat, and the faster and longer your horse works, the more heat is generated. A study by Wilson & Goodship (1994) found temperatures of 45°C in the Superficial Digital Flexor Tendon (SDFT) when measuring heat produced inside the tendons of a galloping horse.

Why Might Heat Be a Problem?

Excessive, prolonged exposure of the tendons to heat risks causing damage. This is because the heat damages the tenocytes, which can result in tendon cell death (Birch et al. 1997; Burrows et al. 2008; Yamasaki et al. 2001). Over time, repeated exposure to high temperatures can make the soft tissues more vulnerable to more significant damage and injuries.

The Insulating Effect Of Exercise Boots

Exercise boots can be worn for every riding discipline, to protect the horse’s legs from injury. Protection is especially important for the SDFT, because it is situated just below the epidermal layer (skin) at the back of the leg, making it especially vulnerable to injury from hind leg strikes. Fetlock protection is also paramount for those that brush. 
By adding anything to the horse’s legs, we are adding an extra layer of insulation. Exercise boots can have the unwanted effect of making it more difficult for heat to escape from the horse’s legs, which increases the risk of the soft tissues overheating.

The Exoskeleton Open-Fronted Tendon Boots for Horses

The Exoskeleton is a boot with three layers of protection in the main strike areas, however, significant ventilation is created by opening up the hardshell to allow heat to escape and stimulate air flow with a novel, well-designed vented system.
The boot can deform and revert to its original shape time after time, and the internal materials provide cushioning to dissipate the force of a strike. When tested against other market-leading tendon boots, the Exoskeleton performed best in terms of the amount of force transmitted through the boot to the horse’s leg.