Equine hydrotherapy

Equine hydrotherapy uses water as a method of providing rehabilitation following an injury, as well as being used to help build and maintain fitness in some cases. Types of hydrotherapy suitable for horses include swimming, water treadmills and static spas, as well as traditional cold hosing of limbs.

Equine hydrotherapy: swimming

Swimming can be used to build fitness and stamina, improve muscle tone and can be helpful when a horse is recovering from an injury. One of the major benefits of swimming is the lack of concussion on the horse’s legs compared to fast work, like galloping. Swimming has typically been used by the racing world to help train horses with fragile limbs, but it is increasingly also being used by event horses as well. Watch our video of four-star eventer Cornacrew having his last swim before competing at Burghley Horse Trials 2015.

Equine hydrotherapy: water treadmill

Working a horse on a water treadmill can help improve the horse’s range of movement and build muscle while putting minimum stress on the front legs and hooves. It is a low intensity workout that makes it suitable for both fit horses and those returning to work after injury. The water treadmill encourages the horse to ‘sit’ behind, making them drive with the hind legs while taking the weight off the front legs. While working on the water treadmill, the horse takes bigger, longer steps than they would on land. This helps to build up the muscles in the hind quarters and over the lumber area of the back. See dressage superstar Valegro demonstrating his impressive movement on a water treadmill.

Equine hydrotherapy; equine spas

An equine spa allows the horse to enjoy the theraputic benefits of cold water therapy. The spa is typically filled with water at a temperature of 2°C and 4°C. This works to minimise heat and inflammation in the lower legs making it ideal for treating soft issue injuries, as well as being suitable to use as a preventative measure, particularly if you have been competing on firm ground. Optional jacuzzi jets can be used to massage the horse’s leg/joints to help improve circulation and reduce swelling. Read more about the benefits of equine spas here

Cold hosing

At the most basic level, cold hosing your horse’s legs is a form of hydrotherapy that is accessible to all horse owners. The cool temperature of the water combined with the gentle massage of the water flow can help reduce heat and swelling.