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Equine cryotherapy

Cryotherapy for horses is an original technique using extremely low temperatures between -100C and 150C to rapidly cool down the horse’s body. The treatment lasts up to 5 minutes.

Equine cryotherapy has whole-body and local forms. Whole-body exposure produces systemic effects, while localized cryotherapy devices are designed for spot treatments with immediate effect, like pain relief from joint, ligament, or tendon issues.

What are the effects of equine cryotherapy?

Equine cryotherapy is used primarily for jumping horses and racehorses to:

  • improve their stamina,
  • develop physical capacity,
  • enhance performance,
  • alleviate muscle soreness,
  • quell inflammation,
  • relax muscles and make them more flexible.
Cryomed CF-04 Equine

What does a horse cryosauna look like?

A horse cryosauna resembles an elongated open-top refrigerator with two doors, in the front and back of the machine, to let the horse in before the treatment and out after the treatment. The horse’s head is always outside the treatment zone. The exit door has an arced cutout for the horse’s head.

What are the benefits of whole-body equine cryotherapy?

Extreme cold has confirmed efficiency for pain control and inflammation management. Therefore, the most common application of equine cryotherapy is post-exercise and post-injury recovery. However, the cold is known to enhance performance and prevent injury.

Horse cryotherapy benefits for post-exercise recovery

  • Muscle strain relief. Right after the session ends, the blood enriched with oxygen, hormones, and nutrients is actively supplied to the muscles. This helps accelerate the recovery, relax, and nourish muscles.
  • Pain relief. Extreme cold reduces muscle soreness after strenuous training and competitions.
  • Anti-inflammatory action. Increased blood flow to overstressed muscles, ligaments, and tendons flushes toxins out and boosts the supply of antioxidants. Sub-zero exposure also helps reduce swelling.
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Horse cryotherapy benefits for performance

  • Hormonal release. Extreme cold facilitates the release of testosterone and endorphins. These hormones are critical for the horse’s performance. While testosterone plays a prominent role in building muscle mass, endorphins, aka happiness hormones, make a horse feel better, release stress and tension, balance its mental condition, and improve self-confidence.
  • Better motion span. Pain and inflammatory processes in muscles, ligaments, and joints frequently produce motion stiffness. Extreme cold sessions limit pain and inflammation, decrease edema, and provide extensive blood flow to the affected area, thus easing stiffness and improving flexibility and coordination.
  • Better blood circulation. Thanks to an almost 4-fold metabolism boost, the muscles get better nutrition. As a result, muscle cells generate more energy necessary for training. Moreover, a boosted oxygen supply develops aerobic capacity, thus enhancing the ability of a horse to perform both aerobic and anaerobic exercise.
  • Lowered risk of injury. A series of treatments boost extensive collagen production, making the muscles more flexible and, therefore, more enduring, able to work at the maximum of their potential. Additional collagen also helps reduce potential injury.

Horse cryotherapy benefits for post-injury recovery

  • Faster recovery after injuries. Extremely cold temperatures help animals recover faster in case of dislocated joints, ligament sprains, or other injuries. Cold treatments block pain, boost blood flow and speed up healing.
  • Improving inflammatory conditions. Arthritis, rheumatism, bursitis, synovitis, and hematomas are some of the most common equine health issues that cryotherapy can deal with. The number of treatments may be higher in case of chronic conditions.

Although studies have consistently confirmed the efficacy of horse cryotherapy, please consult your veterinarian before using any supplementary therapy, including cryotherapy.

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What are the main effects of spot equine cryotherapy?

Cold from the liquid nitrogen flow affects the skin and soft tissues. Therefore, it is particularly effective for treating conditions linked to muscles, ligaments and tendons. So what can you expect from a local cryotherapy session?

  • Pain-killing effect. Spot cryotherapy promptly relieves acute or chronic pain in joints, ligaments or tendons, alleviates muscle pain and relieves muscle spasms. Improved blood flow helps reduce swelling tied to pain. Sub-zero exposure also reduces pain sensitivity.
  • Anti-inflammatory effect. Cryogenic temperatures decrease the levels of inflammatory proteins at the place of injury, thus suppressing heat and inflammation and promoting faster wound healing and recovery.
  • Antibacterial effect. The blood rich with oxygen and anti-inflammatory cytokines rushing to the injured place after the treatment prevents the development of infections.
  • Improved range of motion. Painless and relaxed muscles and joints give more freedom of movement. A horse will more readily carry out tricky maneuvers that would otherwise be impossible.

Spot cryotherapy for laminitis

The common reasons for laminitis are improper farrier care, physical overloads, hormonal diseases, and inflammations. Fortunately, cryotherapy may alleviate its symptoms and, in many cases, prevent the development of its acute form.

Laminae tissue in a horse with laminitis suffers from poor oxygen supply and nutrition. An affected part is swollen, painful and inflamed. When the hurting limb is treated with an extreme cold, a rapid constriction of the blood vessels limits the access of toxins and other inflammation-inducing substances to the affected area.

It helps reduce swelling and minimize inflammatory response. Further, the pain conduction signals are inhibited, hence the pain subsides. After the treatment, the limb starts warming up, blood circulation improves, which promotes lymphatic drainage and better cell nutrition.

Spot cryotherapy, whether ice/water immersion or professional cryotherapy devices, has been long recognized as an effective tool for preventing and treating equine laminitis. However, the latest models of spot cryotherapy devices, like cryofans, make cryotherapy treatments more convenient, fast and effective.

Which horses can benefit from localized cryotherapy?

  • Retired arthritis senior horses
  • Second-career horses
  • Racing and jumping horses experiencing tough training and competition loads
  • Laminitic horses
  • Elite eventers who need to keep fit
  • Horses with painful and injured or overstretched tendons
  • Horses after surgery
  • Horses with wounds and abscesses
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Cryotherapy may be a valuable add-on for:

  • Horse breaking and training facilities: to cater to the needs of equine athletes in faster muscle recovery, injury prevention, and performance boost.
  • Equestrian boarding stalls and shelters: to manage arthritis and laminitis, treat wounds and scars, to maintain the horses’ health and well-being.
  • Equine veterinary clinics and hospitals: to treat musculoskeletal injuries and inflammatory conditions and aid post-surgery rehabilitation.
  • Equine physiotherapy clinics: to treat joint and soft tissue injuries, lameness, and joint stiffness, to deal with weakness due to age or intense schooling/training.
  • Equine rehabilitation centers and clinics: to integrate cryotherapy in treatment protocols to help horses recover from injuries or surgeries, regain strength and mobility, and prevent further injuries.
  • Equine-assisted therapy centers: to maintain the physical and mental health of older and second-career horses.
  • Equestrian teams and clubs: to support the overall health and performance of their horses.

FAQs

Equine cryotherapy is exceptionally effective for equine performance and well-being. But note that with chronic conditions, you should not expect immediate results. In this case, cryotherapy has an accumulative effect that may show after a series of treatments. However, with some acute conditions like painful muscles or limb injuries, the relief is instant.

Whole-body cryotherapy works differently from icing on a deeper level, producing a systemic effect. Local cryo is similar to icing, though more convenient, efficient and fast. Extreme cold therapy generates lower temperatures than icing, enabling it to achieve the desired effect in less time.

Usually, equine cryotherapy is well tolerated by horses. However, some animals may require initial habituation. In this case, a horse may be first led into a cryosauna with the nitrogen supply cut off. After ensuring that there is no adverse reaction or anxiety, you can start the nitrogen supply for several minutes and then, the next day, hold a trial cryotherapy session. During a session, an accompanying person may offer treats and communicate with the animal to keep it calm. In individual cases, slight sedation may be an option.

With Cryomed’s Equine Cryo cryotherapy machine, you do not have to worry that your horse will accidentally breathe in too much nitrogen vapor or get anxious because of the sound generated by a nitrogen pump. The cryo cabin is cooled with close-loop radiators, keeping nitrogen safely inside and producing low noise levels.