We’ve all heard about them and some of us may have even had the opportunity to put their benefits to use at one point or another, for our horses. The advantages they pose for equine rehabilitation and fitness advancement are ten-fold. Not to mention the opportunities they provide for physical therapy and anesthesia recovery that conventional methods have a harder time restoring back to normal for our precious equine companions.
I’m talking about hydro therapy and equine underwater treadmill systems. Last year, I had the opportunity to hang out at Bandalero Ranch in Tucscon, AZ, a facility that regularly puts their aqua-treadmill to good use and I was amazed to learn all about all the positive advantages these systems can offer.
To start, I had a lot of questions: Aren’t horses initially afraid to be immersed in water? If you are rehabilitating an injured horse, how do you keep it from panicking once inside the system and causing further injury? And, does hydro therapy really offer better advantages than conventional rehabilitation means?
The head rehabilitation manager told me, “The horses are scared at first, so once we get them inside the exercise stall, we add the water slowly. The horse needs to get used to a treadmill under their feet and water all at the same time. So we first start the treadmill and get the horse moving, then we add the water. Typically, the horse doesn’t really react to the water at all because he’s moving and he has a vent for any anxiety he may be feeling. It’s only if the horse were standing still inside the exercise stall, and then water is added, that he may be likely to panic.”
The horse enters into the ground-level tank (exercise stall) through a water-tight door at the rear of the treadmill. The machine at Bandalero Ranch loads just like a standard horse trailer and features a dry loading treadmill. As mentioned, water is only introduced after the horse is in and the water-tight door is closed. Then the treadmill is turned on and water slowly fills up the tank afterwards.
Once the desired time is reached for the horse to be exercised, the tank is then drained of the water and the horse is allowed to carefully step out of a front gate. All of the horses I watched at Bandalero loaded into the HydroHorse like pros and walked out just as gracefully. Many seemed to really enjoy their treatments and yawned or pooped (releasing tension), during their treatments.
What I learned was, the HydroHorse provided the means of far less traumatic competitive conditioning of horses as compared to some conventional conditioning. The buoyant effect of water with the increased resistance to limb movement in water, combined to offer less concussive force to the limbs, therefore increasing muscle tone and minimizing injury. And for horses that had previous injuries, their rehabilitation in this machine did not involved a series of \”up-hill\” limb thrusts, which in many instances could cause harm to the animal as the legs perform an unnatural all-out type of flexion. Instead, the treadmill could be set at a very slow rate of speed and contain the horse’s movement to some extent – however, it’s important to note that it is nearly impossible, to truly control equine aquatic exercise.
For more information, check out: www.horsetreadmills.com
3 thoughts on “HydroHorse”
We are very fortuate to have facilities in Alberta that have these tools available to help our horses with rehab and conditioning. Be sure to check one out in your area (one in Carstairs and I believe there is another up near Edmonton).
would like to know the name or phone no of watertredmill place in carstairs thanks blair 306 666 4612
Hello Blair, you are thinking of Champion Equine. You can reach them online at http://championequinerehab.com/ or call 403-990-8697.