Everyone needs a good massage, sauna and warm bath from time to time: a spa day. However, a spa day for a horse looks very different. When horses train in water it is called equine hydrotherapy: the use of water to treat medical conditions.
Hydrotherapy has been used for centuries to treat human health problems. Under water, the muscles have to work harder, while the load on bones and soft tissues is a lot less. In addition, the pressure of the water reduces swelling and inflammation. Cold water is used to reduce inflammation, swelling and pain; and warm water causes dilation of blood vessels, which can reduce local pain and inflammation. With today’s technology, this can also offer a solution for horses.
Swimming pools – When it comes to hydrotherapy for horses, swimming pools are most used. These can be circular or linear pools with a water depth of at least 3.5 meters so that the horse is lifted off the ground. Swimming is ideal for maintaining fitness without straining the limbs. Horses are not swimmers by nature. They use their forelegs for balance and their hind legs as engines to move forward. This makes the load on the hindlimbs considerably higher than on the forelimbs. In addition, the speed is determined by the horse and it is difficult to change this.
Water treadmills – A water treadmill allows varied settings in water depth, speed, temperature and water flow. On the treadmill, the horse trains their muscle strength and develops a greater range of motion in the joints. The deeper the water, the less the strain on the muscles and joints.
Saltwater spas – Salt is anti-inflammatory. Cold saltwater spas use flowing cold water with a high salt content to reduce inflammations in the lower limbs and treat minor injuries such as bruises and strains. It also aids in recovery after heavy exercise. The water level can be adjusted to change the pressure on different tissues.
In hydrotherapy, each individual patient is carefully monitored. Small adjustments in speed or water depth can have major effects. In addition, horses can be a little startled by it in the beginning. Working together with an equine rehabilitation specialist gives the safest and greatest results.