The benefits of a water treadmill for horses aren’t limited simply to rehabilitation from injury.
In recent years, the equestrian industry is increasingly turning to the benefits of aqua therapy for the regular training regime for horses from all disciplines. Use of cold water aqua therapy is now becoming an integral part of a competition horse’s development and training programme, bringing real benefits including improvements to all-over suppleness, increased stride length, better muscle tone and more core strength. This not only maximises performance and training, but also reduces the risk of future injury.
“The aqua treadmill is an advanced form of hydrotherapy, combining the unique healing properties of cold water with safe, controlled exercise in a straight line.” Said Lisa Ford from South West Equine Water Treadmill “excellent as part of a rehabilitation programme, but also extremely beneficial for a healthy horse, developing core strength and improved balance.
“The horses take higher steps to go over the water; it’s a different pattern from their stride on dry land, and by the control of speed and balance the horse is encouraged to ‘sit’ more behind.
This builds an increase in muscular flexibility, tone and muscle mass.”
“Working a horse on the water treadmill helps improve their range of movement and strengthens their musculo-skeletal system, but it puts minimum stress on their front legs and feet.
International Grand Prix Dressage Rider Lucy Straker, recently shared on Facebook:
‘[Hawks] just scored 67.2% in his second ever BD Grand Prix! All the winter work of strengthening and fitness, thanks to South West Equine Water Treadmill, is paying off!’
Lucy explained to the digital BV “I started using the Water treadmill in the winter with my Grand Prix horse to try and
improve his strength a bit more as he gets tired towards the end of my test.
“After 11 sessions the difference has been phenomenal!
Not only is he stronger but it’s improved his walk and straightness.”
“Lisa’s massive amount of experience and attention to how he moves has proved invaluable, and his marks have improved by 4% already!
I am also now taking my 6 yr old to strengthen his top line to try to prevent injuries in the future for him. It’s a great addition to their work programme without unnecessary wear and tear on their body.”
Horses are worked in a strictly controlled environment, with belt speed and water height adapted to each individual horse.
As rehabilitation, this form of hydrotherapy can assist with the repair of tendons and suspensory ligaments, and it can also help with degenerative joint disease, being anti-inflammatory and increasing joint flexion.
Many conditions that horses suffer from are greatly relieved by working, without a rider, in perfect balance in a water treadmill. Some of the most common are a sore back, weak hindquarters, jarring through the shoulders and weak stifles. A study has shown that working at a certain height of water (Carpel) can also help increase the gap between dorsal spine processes, benefitting horses suffering from kissing spine.
Grand Prix rider Yasmin Dadkhah, owner of Loose Reins in Shillingstone, is another local convert
“The water treadmill helped strengthen my Grand Prix horse in his collection work no end,
and became an essential part of his work life.
We are already noticing the development of strength now in my upcoming mare, and I will use it in future for all of my horses routine training.
“The Grand Prix horse went from a small and basic piaffe to really sitting and using himself.”
The treadmill plays a role in the training successes of many top level eventers, show jumpers and dressage horses. It has kept horses sound and working, and the benefits are not exclusive to the elite of the sport – there are horses from every discipline and at every level that are enjoying a better quality of working life thanks to their training on a water treadmill.
Lisa can be contacted via the South West Equine Water Treadmill Facebok page
Lucy Straker is available for 1:1 training & clinics