A spa break sounds like heaven to most riders, and horses can benefit hugely from the same sort of treatment. Take Red Rum. Crippling foot problems in his younger years meant he was nearly written off, but daily training on Southport Beach transformed him, said his trainer Ginger McCain, because salt water is so good for legs. And if it’s good enough for a three-time Grand National winner — well, read on.
1. When Mo Farah finishes a 10,000-metre race, he steps into a nitro bath. The soothing effect of the -170° temperature on his tired, aching legs is instant — and hydrotherapy has the same effect on a horse’s limbs too.
2. Once the horse is inside the spa, it is filled with water at a temperature of 2°C and 4°C. This works to minimise heat and inflammation in the legs.
3. A spa is useful as a preventative measure against lameness and health problems, too, particularly if you are competing on firm ground.
4. Spas are great for horses with arthritis because it lessens the pain and improves movement.
5. Stopping to use an equine spa on your way home from a competition helps prevent stiffness the following day.
6. A spa’s water levels can be altered depending on the injury and its place on the leg, enabling you to focus on the necessary area. The top of the horse’s leg is the highest place that can be treated.
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7. The water has salt and magnesium in it, which helps draw out infection. However, horses shouldn’t be put in there if they have an open wound.
8. Optional jacuzzi jets can be added to pummel water around the joints. These act as a massage to help reduce puffiness in the limbs.
9. The benefits of a spa are massive compared to hosing each leg individually, because the water is constant.
10. Hydrotherapy is particularly beneficial for competition horses because there is no medication involved, so you don’t have to worry if your horse is blood tested.
11. It treats anything from tendon problems to arthritis and laminitis — basically any aches or pains in a horse’s leg.
12. Most horses take to being in a spa very well if the handler remains calm.
13. In many cases, an intense hydrotherapy programme has led to a quicker recovery than expected.