Like us, horses respond favorably to a little pampering, and nothing dulls their enthusiasm for exercise like stiffness. Enter liniments. A little time and effort spent in relaxing and relieving muscle soreness and leg fatigue after a hard work pays off big time.
Muscle and joint/tendon/ligament pain builds in the 24 to 72 hours after hard work, creating a variety of secondary compensations involving uneven loading of the legs and muscle tension, as the horse tries to avoid loading the initially tender areas.
Easing post-workout soreness helps combat these problems. Done right, think of it
as the equine equivalent of a long soak in a hot tub. there's a reason top-notch equine athletes have grooms whose primary job is to ?rub? the horse ? both muscles and legs. Liniments make this physical therapy both easier and more effective.
But it's not just hard-toned athletes who can benefit from liniments. Even weekend warriors need the relief provided by liniments, in some respects even more so. Horses get stiff and sore from overdoing it just like we do. Adding a liniment to your after-work rinse water makes it easier to cut through sweat and grime, has an antiseptic effect on skin irritations and has a cooling, invigorating effect on the horse. When the horse has dried, rub in full-strength liniment over the back, rump, chest muscles and lower legs for a stronger soothing effect.
Signs of sore Muscles
A sore muscle will influence how the horse moves. Damaged muscle feels hard and is tender to touch, but there may or may not be an obvious lameness. The ache may be present in limited areas, such as the back, pectorals in the chest, the hamstrings, the inner thigh muscles, quadriceps above the stifles, triceps of the upper front leg and also the neck.
Injuries should be examined by your veterinarian. Otherwise, topical treatment, heat, massage, gentle stretching and turnout are the keys to handling muscle problems. The best rule of thumb for massage and stretching is simple: If it appears to hurt, don't do it. Gentle massage and manipulation will help the muscle relax, but if you do it incorrectly, the pain will worsen. If you're not sure, stick to light rubbing, warmth and a good liniment.
Remember that liniments with counterirritant ingredients stimulate blood flow to the area, which can worsen acute inflammatory swelling. If you suspect the horse has an acute injury to the muscle, icing should be used for the first 24 hours and it can be combined with a mild liniment (the liniment can be cooled before applying). The problem with cold therapy ? and you must be careful about this with acute injury ? is that it can trigger spasms.
How To Use Liniments
? Diluted in a water bucket and applied liberally with a sponge as a rinse. This body wash/brace after heavy work will soothe and invigorate hard-worked muscles.
? Rubbed into the legs to soothe and relax after hard work. Wraps may or may not be needed.
? Massaged into tense, sore muscles or ligaments. Apply the liniment per instructions and massage in.
? Soothe stiffness and pain associated with chronic ligament/tendon or joint problems in the lower leg by applying full strength immediately before work.Use only on a cool horse.
? Decrease swelling in chronic injuries. You can also ease swelling in fresh injuries once the acute inflammatory phase is over.
We used our liniments both as routine post work-out care and on horses with muscle issues, sore joints or minor tendon/ligament problems. Our testers liked the convenience and less waste associated with gels or thick-cream consistency products. However, you can counter this problem by using a spray bottle to apply the liniment to the skin then brace it into the leg as you normally would. We prefer liquids as they more easily mix with wash water and penetrate to the skin level easier. Testers also worried about skin irritation potential, safety under wraps and advisability of using gloves when applying the products. We've included that information for each liniment in our chart.
Our overall pick for safety in both acute and chronic conditions, versatility (body wash, muscles, legs, with or without wraps), pain relief, rapid inflammation control and low irritation potential is still the herbal-based Sore No-More from Equilite.
If you prefer traditional, counterirritant-based products, the three heavy hitters are Absorbine Veterinary Liniment, Bigeloil and Choate?s Liniment, all similarly priced and multi-purpose.
If you prefer thicker products, our top three performers are Absorbine Veterinary Liniment gel (if you prefer the classic ingredients), Arnica Rub (excellent pain relief) and Revive (very gentle, safe for routine use).
When you don't really need a therapeutic effect, but you want something to use as a body brace after work, consider Gateway Su-Per B-Oil or Su-Per Liniment, Absorbine Refreshmint, or Espree Liniment and Body Wash. Gateway Su-Per Liniment is our Best Buy.
Finally, if you're considering a liniment because your horse has signifcant pain from an issue like chronic arthritis or other injury, we believe that Equi-Block DT is the product for you.
Article by Horse Journal staff.