Horse owners everywhere cold-hose or ice their horses' legs to help reduce inflammation, but there hasn't been much agreement among researchers on its effects, or the success of various methods of cooling. However, a recent University of California-Davis (UC Davis) study determined that one type of cold therapy significantly reduced the temperature of superficial digital flexor tendons (SDFT) and established a useful model with which other forms of cold therapy can be evaluated for their efficacy in cooling.

Researchers also found that when tendon cells were cooled in vitro (outside the body) to the same temperatures that the tendons reached in live horses during cold therapy, the cells' viability wasn't damaged.

In the study, which was published in a recent issue of the American Journal of Veterinary Research, horses with temperature probes inserted into one forelimb SDFT were treated with a commercial compression splint with circulating coolant for 60 minutes. Researchers recorded baseline (rectal, skin, tendon, room, and cooling splint) temperatures before treatment and at 30-second intervals during the treatment, and found that the SDFT core temperature dropped from an average of 90.0°F (32.2°C) to an average minimum temperature of 50°F (10°C).

Melinda H. MacDonald, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVS, assistant professor in the school of veterinary medicine at UC Davis, participated in the study. "This was a lead-in study that suggested that we need to do more work to decide what length of time is appropriate for cooling tissues, and to what temperature, because the skin surface (temperature) is not necessarily repres