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Types Of Horse Liniments And When Each Should Be Used

By Jeffrey Rolo

In the article Horse Liniment: How Equine Liniments Can Benefit Your Horse, we learned how horse liniments work and how we should use them. If you haven't yet read that article, I'd recommend doing so first before moving on to this one.

Now, let's learn about the different types of horse liniment, and how to select the one right for you.

Although all liniments share certain qualities in common (namely, pain relief via improved blood flow), they are not all created the same. Each equine liniment, whether purchased at a tack store or made at home, will possess its own set of ingredients, and as a result despite their commonalities there are some differences to be aware of. Let's cover them now:

Analgesic Liniment:

Analgesic horse liniments are the strongest variety, typically possessing ingredients such as mint oils, eucalyptus, capsaicin or menthol. These ingredients, while commonly used in analgesic liniments, are certainly not the only ones, so before purchasing any liniment, make sure you know whether it's analgesic or antiseptic.

Analgesic liniments are the most effective when it comes to providing pain relief or reducing swelling due to their increased strength, so I tend to favor them for such purposes. Due to their increased potency, it's important to read their usage instructions and see if any dilution is recommended. If the analgesic liniment is too strong and isn't first diluted, it can cause skin irritation or even blistering.

Don't use topical analgesic liniment in tender areas such as the face or genitals, and never apply an analgesic on an abrasion of any size. Application to such a wound will sting.

If you body clip your horse, be careful about using analgesic liniment if your horse has naturally sensitive skin. I would recommend diluting it, and even then monitor for any apparent irritation.

Antiseptic Liniment:

Antiseptic horse liniments are much gentler than their analgesic counterparts, which means although they may not be quite as effective for serious pain or deep muscle and joint soreness, they are also not as likely to cause skin irritation. If your horse is particularly sensitive you may still need to be cautious and dilute the application, so I don't recommend splashing it on haphazardly until you know your horse reacts to it well.

Unlike analgesic liniments, you can apply an antiseptic horse equine liniment directly to a superficial wound or abrasion; it is designed to minimize bacteria in the area applied. Never apply any type of topical liniment to an open wound, even if it is antiseptic.

Which Type Should I Use?

If you're using liniment to protect abrasions from infection, cool down a horse after a rigorous exercise session, or provide relief for light soreness, antiseptic liniment will likely do the job for you. If your horse is experiencing deep or prolonged discomfort, or suffers from arthritis, although antiseptic liniment will still provide relief you may wish to try analgesic liniment instead.

Ultimately you will want to experiment with different types or brands. Each liniment possess its own "feel" and scent, so you won't know what appeals most to both you and your horse until you test a couple out. And remember, every horse is an individual, so test slowly until you know how your horse will react. Not all horses enjoy liniment some love the relief horse liniment provides, while others dislike the tingly feeling that typically comes with liniment. Your horse may need to get used to the feeling before he embraces it.

Any Brands You Recommend?

Not really. I personally used Absorbine horse liniment a lot, and they offer both antiseptic and analgesic liniments. Absorbine is commonly used within my circle of peers, and is also one of the most popular brands among horsemen around the nation. Is that because Absorbine is so much better than other brands, or is it due to their higher profile and name recognition? Hard to say. I can say that it's a good product, but I'm not about to say that I haven't worked with other high quality liniments.

Another brand known to be extremely effective is Sore No More. Vetrolin, ThermaFlex and Trainers 5000 are also solid brands with a lot of fans. Again, experiment a bit until you find the brand that appeals most to you.

Here's another tip: if you experience soreness yourself, try using some of these horse liniments on yourself. Apply it directly and/or wrap it for arthritis or muscle soreness, or if you're looking for a relaxing bath, splash a bit of it into your bathwater. Although horse liniment producers package equine liniments in a manner that might lead you to believe they are suited for horses, in reality there is no difference between the two. By trying a liniment out yourself, you won't know how your horse reacts, but you'll be able to determine if the scent appeals to your nose, and get a feel for its effectiveness.

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