Sweating is the time-honored practice of applying an occlusive wrap to a horse’s leg in an effort to trap heat and moisture and promote healing. You can use a flexible, Velcro-closure neoprene boot or a stall wrap with a layer of plastic wrap between the cotton/quilt and the outer bandage.
Sweating may be done with the leg dry or after application of a “sweat” product. These sweating rubs/liniments vary from as simple as straight viscous solutions like glycerin or polyethylene glycol to medicated sweats with ingredients like alum or other drawing agents. Even the mouthwash Listerine can be used in sweats.
Sweating has a variety of uses. The most important thing to remember in trying to decide if it will help in your situation is that sweating traps heat, so it shouldn’t be used on inflamed, hot legs or joints. The only exception to this rule is if you’re trying to draw an abscess to a head to make it drain.
Sweats are best to:
• Relieve stiffness in chronically arthritic joints, or previously injured ligaments and tendons.
• Prevent stocking up not related to an inflammation.
• Treat already present stocking up.
• Help resolve collections of edema fluid that persist in areas of injury after the acute inflammation has been brought under control.
• Temporarily reduce and improve the cosmetic appearance of thick necks and throatlatch areas prior to a show.
Avoid leaving sweats in place for longer than 10 to 12 hours at a time. Exceeding these times results in skin softening and promotes the growth of bacteria and fungi, as the conditions under a sweat are perfect for these organisms.
Cottons/quilts used to sweat legs should be washed after each use. Neoprene sweat wraps should be turned inside out, wiped clean of dirt, sweat, hair and skin cells, and allowed to thoroughly dry, preferably in the sun, before being applied again. You also need to be particularly careful when using Listerine or other medicated products under a sweat wrap. These can be directly irritating to skin.