The Benefit of Poultices During the Show Season
During the competition season horses are generally worked harder, stalled more frequently, and are transported more often. This combination can generate a greater amount of stress on the horse’s muscles and connective tissue. Jack Grogan, CN, chief science officer at Uckele Health & Nutrition, relays that it is vitally important that the strong, yet delicate leg muscles and connective tissue be protected and cared for day in and day out, especially during show season.
"As a result of the increased work load, it is very common for muscles, tendons, ligaments, and connective tissue to be overworked or strained, not necessarily to the point of injury, but as a normal consequence of the extra training and performance," he explains.
Grogan emphasizes that the muscles and connective tissues of the legs require rest and care to recuperate as completely as possible to perform at the highest level of the horse’s physical potential: "One of the first lines of defense to protect the muscles, tendons, and ligaments from the stress of training and performing is a high quality poultice. This functions as a drawing substance, which soothes and comforts the tissues. A good poultice reduces tissue heat and swelling caused by the connective tissue stress that occurs from the substantially greater work load and increased demands of high intensity training and performance."
Grogan recommends a clay-based formula to provide a temporary cooling benefit for inflamed tissues and natural astringent properties, which can support a faster recuperation. He points out that when it comes to injury, a good rule of thumb is cold for fresh trauma and as a preventive after heavy work.
"In the early acute phases after injury, cold minimizes the aggressive stress response to the injury, and can reduce pain," Grogan says, adding that by reducing the initial stress of the injury, the risk of further, more damaging injury from swelling and inflammation is minimized.
In addition, Grogan points out that poultices can benefit all horses, not just performance horses, supporting and soothing the legs, muscles, and connective tissue. A high quality poultice can reduce pain or discomfort from normal daily exercise and activity, relieve soreness and stiffness in muscles and joints after a hard workout, and provide natural astringent properties.
"While ice is the preferred cold therapy, it’s not always a convenient option," Grogan concludes, "Poultices are an excellent alternative option to cool things down and are frequently used as cold therapy on the lower legs (tendons, ligaments, joints) and hooves (traumatic injury, bruises, abscesses) to reduce swelling and aid healing."
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