The Benefits of Equine Hydrotherapy


Equine hydrotherapy may be relatively new, but it is already proving popular for treating numerous equine leg injuries and swelling.  According to Professor Evan Hunt of the University of Sydney Orange, “Tendon injuries unfortunately come with performance horses, be it racing, eventing, show jumping or polo. These have traditionally taken a long time to respond and in the first cases of Spa use I saw, I couldn’t believe the rate of recovery with results I hadn’t previously achieved throughout my 35 years of veterinary experience.”

What is Equine Hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy, used successfully by canine veterinarians for many years, involves the use of water as a method of rehabilitation following injury, or as a means of building and maintaining fitness. It relies on water treadmills, static spas, swimming, etc. though in the same way that the chemistry of water in pools used by humans involves an important blend of factors such as pH, alkalinity and the like, so too do spas for animal therapy require specific conditions to work optimally in recovery.

Equine spas use a specific concentration of salt, and water that is cooled to a temperature of between 35ºF and 37ºF (2ºC to 4ºC). This combats inflammation and pain, and stops enzyme degeneration in tendons post-injury.

Salt is used to essentially increase water density, to enhance fluid and waste dispersal. Bubbles, meanwhile, enhances ar horse’s enjoyment, since they effectively ‘massage’ the legs.

Uses of Equine Hydrotherapy

Veterinarians are currently using this therapy for a number of common conditions, including tendon injuries, the management of equine distal limb swelling resulting from wounds, tendonitis, and lymphedema. Equine surgeons note that this therapy can help with reducing hospitalisation time from this cause.

In some settings, seawater spas are being used to reduce the acute inflammatory phase and to lower chronic inflammation resulting from old lesions. Seawater therapy is additional proving helpful in accelerating the healing period of wounds.

In Ireland, equine spas are already being used for all these conditions, as well as fractures and splints, increased hoof growth, sore shins, flare-up-concussions, and more.

While the use of water in equine therapy is not new, the idea of bringing the spa to the horse, and setting up specific conditions to enhance the reduction of swelling, is still considered relatively avante-garde. The chemical- and drug-fee therapy is being used in more race circuits and events across the globe, as a way to speed up injury recovery and wound healing, but also to strengthen muscles and reduce symptoms presented by older injuries.


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