Max Corcoran has groomed internationally at the highest levels of equestrian sport for nearly two decades. She worked for the O’Connor Event Team for 11 years and has served at multiple Olympic Games, World Championships, Pan American Games and countless CCIs across the U.S. and Europe. She now lives in Ocala, Fla., with her partner Scott Keach, who competes Grand Prix show jumpers.
We wanted to know about her icing protocol and how she takes care of horses after a strenuous cross-country round. She also gave us an insider’s tip on how to acclimate horses to being iced.
“Icing is a bit of a tricky thing – some horses can cope with it and some horses can’t. Some horses can stand in ice boots, some horses can’t.
It’s knowing how to ice your horse before you get there. They need to learn to stand in ice before you get to the competition.
I have one trick at home that I always use: if I have horses that are scared about standing in ice boots or something, I will actually put them in their ice boots with nothing in them while they eat breakfast and dinner. That teaches them that it’s ok to be there while they’re distracted and helps them get used to it. But, some horses never really learn.
The quickest you can get ice on the horse’s legs, the better. Some people bring ice boots to the finish area and as soon as the cross country boots come off, the ice boots go on. They usually use the ice wraps for that because they’re small and easy to get on and off. Typically, if the horse can cope with it, I’ll do that and walk them back in those and then put them in ice boots after they have 10-20 minutes to themselves.
[When returning to the barn after cross-country] I want to let them have a pee, a drink, a roll, and some time to shake it off. They’ve just done a lot, they need some time. Give them a bit of hay and let them be. I check to see if there’s any swelling or cuts before I throw them in ice. I have a really good look over them. Then I pop them in ice as soon as I can.
I do about 20 minutes of icing and then I take them out and stand them for a minute, and then check for heat. If a horse has injured itself the heat will come on pretty quickly, you’ll be able to feel it. I like to then take them out and trot them up to see where you are. If everything is good and the horse looks great, this is great, then you don’t have to be as aggressive. Maybe if you do have a problem, you can figure out what that problem is and make a plan to make sure they’re ok. We do have to trot them up the next day, and that’s not always the easiest.
Maybe you can space out your icings a bit more. In between icings I try to keep their back legs wrapped. I typically don’t ice the back legs because the horses don’t typically like it and it can be really stressful for them. So I try not to do that. Then if you have an hour between icings, I will wrap their legs between icings to help keep the filling out of their legs.
Typically, if your horse is in good shape, I’ll ice 3 times at a competition like this. Then I’ll have another trot up before you put them into bed. Sometimes the horse has sprung a shoe or is hurting somewhere and the farrier or vet can help you with that. Sometimes the best thing for them is rest and just leaving them alone. Everyone gets excited and there’s a lot of people around, but sometimes you just have to shut their door and walk away.”