Cold salt water hydrotherapy accelerates healing and repair over a range of injuries to the lower limbs: from tendon injuries to the most serious wounds. Additionally, it can aid the prevention of stiffness and improve suppleness when used as part of a training regime.
The combination of jets of aerated saline water kept at a constant 2ºC - and the depth of water - encourages circulation and healing. And it’s a very relaxing experience for the horse too!
Spa therapy is very effective and has been the key to a number of notable returns to the highest level of competition in horses who have been almost discarded due to their injuries.
Response to injury depends on the location, severity and treatment prior to therapy. The earlier a case can be treated the better - to achieve the best possible outcome.
Injuries treated include…
Injury to Superficial digital flexor, Check ligament, Deep digital flexor
Suspensory strain or tear
Injury to Fetlock and pastern, Knee and hock, coffin joint
- Hoof Injuries
Over reach, Abscesses, Stone Bruise, Corns, Laminitis or Founder, Thrush, Nail Prick
- Shin Splints
Sore shins, Bucked shins
- Jar Up
- Bursitis / Synovitis
Swollen joints, Wind galls or wind puffs
- Open Wounds and skin infections
Dermatitis, Greasy heel / Mud Fever / Rain Scald
How does it work?
Cold Spa Hydrotherapy relies on a number of water factors which all may influence the outcome of the therapy…
The water is maintained between 2 and 4 °C (35 °F), to minimise heat and inflammation. This provides analgesic pain management as well as inhibiting enzyme degeneration of tendons post injury. The colder the water, the greater the pain relief and anti-inflammatory influence provided. In addition, at lower temperatures micro-organic activity is minimised.
The influence of cold on vasoconstriction is well recognised and - in the case of Spa therapy - the removal of oedematous fluid simultaneously eliminates some of the tissue toxins associated with injury. On re-sanguination fresh blood is introduced to the tissues.
Salt concentration and the make-up of the salt in the water have an effect on tissue response to hydrotherapy. The therapy allows the introduction of higher salt levels (sodium and magnesium chloride) than seawater thus increasing the potential healing powers of the water. As well as having a natural healing effect on wounds, the salt solution 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 where water density increases. And 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, creating turbulence, works in two ways. Firstly with a massaging effect on the leg and secondly by increasing the dissolved oxygen content of the Spa solution. The higher oxygen level is believed to improve wound healing and allows the horse to relax. Aerated cold water causes a significant decrease in heart rate during Spa treatment.
Water at temperatures below 6 °C (48 °F) has a higher ability to carry oxygen and with the Spa solution also being aerated, the oxygen content is increased dramatically. It is believed that the Spa has similar effects on internal leg injuries to the use of hyperbaric chambers in humans; and with topical wounds, re-oxygenation allows phagocytosis and other natural defence mechanisms to intensify in their therapy.
With water hygiene levels continually being maintained with 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.
- Encourages better granulation
- Improves circulation
- Improves gait and general demeanor
- Improves horn growth
- Reduces swelling/ inflammation
- Analgesic effect
- Injury Prevention
More About Injury Prevention
Prevention is always better than cure and here cold salt water hydrotherapy comes into its own.
For performance horses, the rigours of competition and training create continuous concussive forces on lower joints and tendons. Using Spa treatment as part of a training regime is beneficial – reducing the stresses and strains that could develop into more serious injuries.
The Spa can be used to prevent stiffness, improve suppleness and mobility. By regular use of cold therapy, immediately after hard exercise, many of the stressors within tissues are removed before inflammation develops.
Cold also significantly improves surface bone density reducing the opportunity for bone stress related injuries to commence.
Our team regularly treat many horses and ponies - including a number of top international horses - - as part of their management routine.