What is equine balneotherapy and How does equine balneotherapy work?

Fortunate are the stables located near the sea, whose horses can enjoy its benefits. Recognized for its many virtues, balneotherapy is now booming in equestrian establishments. Practiced after an intense effort such as a competition, or preventively, the benefits of equine balneotherapy are undoubted.

What is equine balneotherapy?

Balneotherapy is a process that human beings have used from ancient Greece to the present day, to cure themselves of many ailments using the benefits of water. Currently, this practice has been transferred to the field of animal welfare and health. Horses, dogs, cats… all our companions can currently benefit from it in a preventive or therapeutic way, either for their mental recovery or for their physical rehabilitation.

Numerous clinical and veterinary studies have shown the benefits of balneotherapy in the preparation of equine pool and in some way have made it possible to popularize this practice. Because of this, treatment centers offering balneotherapy have sprung up, and professionals and amateur riders can now provide their horses with treatment, rehabilitation, or recovery sessions using water baths.

When to use balneotherapy for horses?

This practice may be prescribed by your veterinarian in case of injury to your horse: either during convalescence, when the horse  is unable to resume mounted exercise, or for rehabilitation, depending on the equipment used. Therefore, balneotherapy is ideal for accelerating the healing process and optimizing rehabilitation by working evenly on the body.

For example, a SPA can be used for most injuries located in the lower extremities: tendonitis, dermatitis, arthritis, synovitis, hoof injuries, open wounds, infections or skin diseases. You can also use balneotherapy preventively before or after an effort such as a competition or a race, or simply to improve the mental well-being and morale of your horse.

How does equine balneotherapy work?

First of all you have to take into account the water level . The water exerts a greater or lesser pressure on the body depending on its level with respect to the animal. Thanks to Archimedes we know that part of the horse’s weight is carried by the water, thus relieving the joints and muscles and facilitating the movement of the limbs so that they work smoothly.

Second, the salt . The concentration of salt in the water naturally speeds up the healing process thanks to its antimicrobial properties and its ability to absorb oxygen into the tissues.

Third important circumstance, temperature . Cold water acts as a strong pain reliever to reduce the sensation of pain. It also permeabilizes the vessel walls to limit the presence of inflammatory fluids surrounding the painful area.

Fourth, oxygenation . The supply of oxygen through bubbles or jets provides a massage effect, providing lymphatic drainage that disperses inflammatory fluids around the wound, relaxes muscles and activates blood circulation, favoring recovery and strengthening natural immunity.

But, if we are not lucky enough to live near the sea, how can we benefit our horses?

Different solutions for performing balneotherapy and equine hydrotherapy treatments

The horse pool specially designed for horses, around which they will swim; the HippoSpa and the Aquatrainer, or treadmill walker with water.

The HippoSpa serves both preventive and curative use and allows treatment with salt water (even in higher concentration than in the sea) and adjusting the water temperature from 2 to 5 ° C, depending on the desired effect. The horse enters the HippoSpa, which will then be filled with water to a maximum level of 60cm. The bubbles produced from below rise up the extremities, thus ensuring a uniform draining massage. To guarantee perfect hygiene, the structure of the HippoSpa is made of stainless steel and the water is filtered several times thanks to the device’s internal system. Due to the fact that the temperature of the water is quite cold, it is recommended to use the HippoSpa for sessions of 10 minutes to 20 minutes maximum.

The Aquatrainer is based on the same operation as the dry treadmill, but the aquatic version allows the horse to walk in the water as it would in the sea. The device can work both dry and with water up to a level of 1.20 m high in the tank, therefore, it is ideal to fulfill a therapeutic objective or as a complement to a training program. The ground strip can be incline from 0 to 10% allowing the horse to work on a slope. There is the optional possibility of adding the bubble jet to produce a superior massage effect and also the option of cooling the water, to obtain the additional functionality of the HippoSpa.

With the Aquatrainer, sessions of about 30-45 minutes are recommended, since it must be taken into account that an immobilized muscle (a horse in the box, for example) loses 20% of its weight and strength in just 7 days. This immobilization also causes deterioration of the muscle fiber most exposed to tearing. Therefore, the use of balneotherapy can be a good alternative in case of convalescence.

Finally, applying balneotherapy as a preventive or curative treatment or as a complement to a training program turns out to be an excellent solution for the health and well-being of horses. There is no reason to envy the stables near the sea, now equine balneotherapy at home is within our reach.