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The benefits of combining physiotherapy with hydrotherapy

Updated: May 3, 2023

It is a well-known fact that when combined with medical therapy, physical rehabilitation can improve the quality of life and performance amongst equine patients.

Equine physical rehabilitation has numerous goals including assisting injury recovery, improving mobility, strength and preventing injury. Because each horse is individual there is no standard therapeutic regimen and no guaranteed outcome, however in many cases a holistic approach using a combination of therapies may be required. But what therapies are out there? And how may different treatment modalities all work together to benefit your horse?

Massage therapy – more than 60% of the horse’s body weight is muscle, muscular stress can lead to a reduction in performance, endurance and increase risk of injury. Deep and soft tissue massage alleviates muscle tension, spasms, increases flexibility and strength and reduced injury rate by enhancing muscle tone and range of motion (ROM). In addition, massage can promote behaviour management by promoting relaxation improving emotional and physiologic well-being.

Hydrotherapy - Swimming can help improve general equine fitness and stamina by helping horses develop muscle tone while recovering from injury or surgery. Increased resistance to movement forces the muscles to work harder in water than they would in air providing excellent cardiovascular exercises with reduced impact and concussive forces.

Therapeutic exercise - A horse with an underlying injury will generally compensate by putting more stress on another body part, which may result in further injuries. This imbalanced exertion may lead to asymmetric movement, strains, and trauma during activity. Once a horse has been assessed by a physiotherapist an exercise programme can be produced including activities such as stretching, lunging, and both ridden and in hand exercises used to strengthen and balance a horse's motion.

Article contributed by Holly Stuart, ACPAT Category A Physiotherapist - from Stride Forward Physiotherapy

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