When we think of hydrotherapy for horses we often think of those pristine swimming pools at racing yards or the relatively new water treadmill used by the likes of Valegro in his prime. But hydrotherapy can be so much more than just a tool for getting the best horses in tip top condition and it’s probably a lot more accessible than you think.
What is hydrotherapy
Hydrotherapy is essentially the use of water to help our horses. It can be used to increase our horses fitness or improve their way of going, making them better athletes. But it can also be used as part of their recovery from injury.
Different types of hyrdotherapy
There are four main types of hydrotherapy for horses; swimming, walking through water, salty spas and good old fashioned cold hosing. Horse owners and trainers have been using these methods for years, long before some of the new technology came along to make it easier for us.
When we think of horses swimming, I think most of us will think back to those fancy horse pools. But riders have been taking their horses to rivers, lakes and the sea for years for a swim. It might just be seen as a fun and different activity for your horse, but swimming has it’s benefits!
Water treadmills have become a real trend in recent years, what is fantastic. They have really helped us understand the benefits of walking horses through water. But walking your horse through a river or in the shallows of the sea can have similar benefits. So many racehorse trainers near the cost regularly take their horses down to the beach to work through the shallows.
Salt water spas are another piece of fairly new technology. They are essentially walk in boxes which fill with cold, salty water and sometimes bubbles like a hot tub. But it is essentially a higher tech version of having your horse stand in a bucket of cold salty water. Ginger McCain, trainer of the legendary Red Rum, swore that the salty sea water helped Red Rum stay comfortable to achieve the amazing things he did.
What are the benefits of hydrotherapy for horses
Every horse can benefit from hydrotherapy for one reason or another. It can help with rehabilitation after injury, it can build strength and fitness, it even has mental benefits of exposing horses to something new and interesting. But each type of hydrotherapy has different benefits for our horses.
Benefits of swimming
Swimming is a great way to build strength and fitness without putting too much strain on an injury. This is because swimming is hard work. But it is also a really good way to improve fitness while protecting the horse from wear and tear. This is because unlike other forms of hard work, such as gallops, the horse doesn’t have to support their own weight and don’t experience concussion forces on their limbs. Very similar to the benefits of swimming in humans.
Benefits of a walking through water
Walking through water can improve the horses way of going and build strength in a low intensity way, making it perfect for both fit and rehab horses. Walking through shallow water encourages the horse to lift their legs out of the water while walking, increasing their range of movement. Walking through deeper water requires more strength to push their limbs through the water. Typically we see horses start to sit behind, pushing from their hind end and taking longer steps while in the water. This helps strengthen the hind end.
Benefits of an equine Spa
Equine spas are fantastic for horses with limb injuries or as part of a competition horse’s routine. The cold water helps with pain and inflamation. The salts have lots of benefits from drawing out toxins to soothing pain. If you have the jets on, they can add a massage affect too. Scottie has visited our local spa a few times since his loss of use tendon injury. It can really help reach structures deep in the foot.
But if you can’t get your horse to an equine spa, you can get similar results if you can get your horse to stand in a bucket of cold salt water for a prolonged period of time.
Benefits of cold hosing
We all know the benefits of cold hosing by now, it’s usually our go to treatment when our horse comes in from the field with a puffy leg. Similar to using a bag of frozen peas on our own injuries, cold hosing can help reduce swelling around an injury.
Last Updated on 24/03/2023