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horse walking in water
Horse walking in water for therapy
The Seawalker from England-based Equine Health Centre Ltd., effectively recreates exercising a horse in the sea.
Chilled salt water, with variable depth control, provides resistance to improve muscle function and aids in the removal of excess fluid after exercise or injury. (Photo courtesy of Equine Health Centre Ltd., www.equinehealthcentre.com )
Effects of heat and cold on tissues of the body
Lessen fatigue, aid relaxation
Stimulate sweat glands
Water is an easy, effective, available therapeutic agent
One of the least high-tech therapies around is water. Running water cleanses and carries unwanted things away. Cold water decreases blood flow and reduces inflammation. Warm water increases blood flow and encourages relaxation. Immersion in water eliminates weight-bearing on limbs and enhances mobility rehabilitation.
Running water has the ability to move particles away from an area. Look at any stream or river delta and you will see evidence of this. We can use running water to our advantage in wound healing if we understand how to harness this power correctly.
For an acute wound, prior to the arrival of your veterinarian, use warm water (body temp) and low pressure to cleanse the wound of large pieces of debris. Limit the amount of time so as not to damage the tissue.
If the wound is too large or too old to be sutured, hydrotherapy may be utilized to help keep the wound clean. Spray the area of the wound and a border 2 to 3 inches around it. The goal is to increase blood flow to the area which will improve removal of the exudate and debris that accumulate as a result of the inflammatory process. You should use warm water under enough pressure to make the area bleed. You can do this twice a day. Discontinue the practice if you see any evidence of excess granulation tissue or proud flesh formation.
Cold causes a vasoconstriction and decreased blood flow to the area being treated, reducing cellular metabolism and permeability, which limits further injury. The decreased blood flow to the area helps prevent and/or reduce trauma-induced swelling at the injury site. You can apply ice for up to 20 minutes, followed by equal time off, three to six times daily in the early stages of an injury.
Compression may be added to allow you to decrease the time. Care should be used when adding compression. Some commercially available products combine compression with cold. You should not use cold in an animal with frostbite or a history of frostbite or in animals with a generalized or localized vascular compromise. Caution should be used in very young and very old animals.
Heat accelerates blood flow to an area, increasing the supply of nutrients and oxygen to the area, which aids in the repair process. Heat promotes muscle relaxation due to a mild sedation of nerve endings, decreasing joint stiffness and increasing range of motion. Heat can be used after the acute inflammatory phase of tissue healing has occurred and minimal signs of inflammation are present.
Heat may also be used as a warm-up to exercise to decrease tissue tightness, muscle spasm and pain. You can use heat for up to 20 minutes on, followed with equal time off, three times daily. Keep the temperature slightly above 104?F and below 113?F. Do not apply heat if there is severe bruising or swelling in the area or in areas where there may be cancer. Monitor the skin closely for burns.
ALTERNATE HOT AND COLD
After the initial injury, you may wish to alternate hot and cold on an area, remembering that you should always end with a period of cold. Keep in mind the effects of heat and cold on various tissues when utilizing these therapies (see table).
Deep water will help allow active muscle contraction with minimal weight bearing stresses on the joints and bones. Working underwater will help the body regenerate while creating new movement patterns. The hydrostatic pressure provided by the water may provide an improved environment for working with swollen joints. Buoyancy reduces the weight on the lower limbs. If the water level is up to the hock, expect about a 9% reduction in the pressure on the limbs; if the water level reaches the hip, stress on the joints will be reduced by more than 60%.
Warm water (85 to 90?F) is best in an underwater treadmill and other deep water situations. Ponds or similar deep water may be used to swim horses. Allow the animal to adjust its movement in the water and provide support with life preservers if needed. The horse?s back may undergo unusual strain while lifting the head out of the water, an issue that may need to be addressed. Swimming is primarily a cardiovascular exercise; however, it has value in rehabilitating certain orthopedic conditions.
Yes, other therapies provide some of the same benefits as water. For instance, the north pole of a magnet increases blood flow to an area while the south pole of the magnet will decrease blood flow. Water is usually a readily available and economic resource that should not be overlooked in your therapy programs.
Treatment and Prognosis of Osteoarthritis, Chris Kawcak, DVM, Kathy Duncan Method Equine Sports Trainer Home Study Certification Program Syllabus. 1997.
Dr. Bill Ormston graduated from Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 1988. After attending Options for Animals in 1998, he received certification from the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association and began using chiropractic to treat his animal patients. Jubilee Animal Health is a mobile mixed animal practice in the Dallas Metroplex area, using mostly alternative methods. Dr. Ormston is one of the founding instructors of the post-graduate course in Animal Chiropractic at Parker Chiropractic College in Dallas. He has lectured nationally and internationally on Animal Chiropractic and biomechanics, and gait analysis in the quadruped. Bill and his three teenagers, Riley, Philip and Jessica, live in Celina, TX, with 2 dogs and 4 cats.