A spa break sounds like a heavenly weekend to most riders but horses can benefit from similar treatment too!
Cold Water Spa therapy is very effective in healing soft tissue damage in the lower leg, accelerating the healing process and helping to realign tissue fibres. It is an effective and key tool in both managing and preventing injury.
Performance horses are regularly expected to manage continuous concussive forces on lower joints and soft tissues which arise through training and competing. Using spa treatment as part of a regular regime is advantageous, reducing the stresses and strains that could have the potential to develop into more serious injuries. Through using cold therapy immediately after hard exercise, many of the stressors within the tissues are removed before further inflammation can develop.
How does it work?
The water is chilled at around -4°C, meaning that by the time the water reaches the horse’s legs it is around 2-4 °C (35 °F). The cool temperature minimises heat and inflammation while also providing analgesic pain relief, as well as inhibiting enzyme degeneration of tendons post injury.
The influence of cold on vasoconstriction is well recognised and this helps with the removal of oedematous fluid as well as eliminating tissue toxins associated with injury.
With salt being present in the water its healing power is increased. Not only does salt have a natural healing effect on wounds, the sodium chloride solution also acts as a hypertonic poultice. The high level hypertonic solution is beneficial in cleaning open wounds, reducing oedema and also influences the way in which leg tissue temperature falls during treatment. In addition, water density increases with salt concentration, which in turn increases pressure to aid fluid and waste dispersal.
The depth of the water is proportional to the physical pressure exerted onto the leg which aids fluid and waste dispersal. It can be varied according to position and severity of the injury. The deeper the immersion, the greater the pressure, especially at colder temperatures as water density increases. Furthermore with greater depth, comes a greater volume of water to surround the leg causing cooling to commence earlier during the downward passage of blood flow.
Water aeration creates turbulence which can work in two ways. The first is providing a massage effect on the limbs, helping with the removal of fluids. The second is by increasing the dissolved oxygen content off the spa solution. The improved oxygen level is believed to improve wound healing and aerated cold water causes a significant decrease in heart rate during spa treatment.
With water hygiene levels continually being maintained through a combination of fine filtration, chlorination, cold water and salt; the Spa allows thousands of successive treatments. These same factors not only prevent further micro-biological infections but actually help treat any pre-existing conditions.
· Reduces swelling/ inflammation
· Analgesic effect
· Encourages better granulation
· Improves circulation
· Improves horn growth
· Injury Prevention
Prevention is always better than cure and here cold salt water hydrotherapy comes into its own.
Our team regularly treat many horses and ponies - including a number of top international horses as part of their management routine. If you have any further questions or would like your horse to visit the therapy centre please contact us!
Related Scientific Literature
Hunt, E. R. (2001) Response of twenty-seven horses with lower leg injuries to cold spa bath hydrotherapy. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, 21(4), pp.188-193.