Recent studies have shown that hydrotherapy can lead to signs of improvement in as little as 20 days for horses that have suffered from Deep Digital Tendon Flexor damage (DDFT). Daily treatment can both reduce inflammation, and provide gentle exercise to aid recovery. Working with the natural resistance of water, you can improve muscle tone around the area, as well as building up fitness and stamina levels without ridden exercise. There are several effective types of hydrotherapy that can be used in treatment combination, including swimming and water treadmills. In the world of both racing and events, hydrotherapy is often used to help train horses that have fragile limbs and joints, as well as helping them to build up strength.
If your horse has DDFT, using cold water and ice as a form of hydrotherapy is extremely beneficial. It can help to decrease swelling and inflammation in the same way that using a cold compress would help human beings. Following this treatment, use warm water on the affected area, to maintain blood flow and get the lymphatic drainage system working effectively – this is essential for repairing tendons. The natural buoyancy of the water will help support your horse’s limbs, whilst building up the muscle strength, in order to return to full health and fitness. This means that they will have no strain on the injured tendon area, whilst they are recovering.
Salt water pools are extremely eco friendly, and don’t contain harsh chemicals that can harm the pH balance of a horse’s skin. In treating DDFT, the saline in the water is a natural anti inflammatory, that will help to soothe aching wounds and accelerate the healing process. It is natural type of hypertonic poultice. Salt water can also improve suppleness and prevent stiffness of limbs. Horses find soaking in these pool very relaxing, especially when the water is kept at a cool 2°, as it encourages circulation. Along with DDFT, salt water can help treat wind puffs and wind galls that are often found in combination.
Returning to fitness
Swimming is highly recommended for horses when they are returning to fitness after DDFT damage. A study by New Zealand researchers into non-invasive measures of animal welfare found that it is a great substitute for ridden exercise, as the viscosity and buoyancy of the water naturally supports muscles and ligaments, as well as aiding muscular development. Swimming also provides the horse with good cardiovascular exercise – essential for rehabilitation.
Equine Hydrotherapy is a natural and extremely effective way of supporting your horse if he is recovering from DDFT. It is beneficial for muscle strength, as well as being a calming and relaxing experience.
By Jenny Holt