April Newsletter: The Benefits of Equine Therapy

Girl kisses horse.

The Benefits of Therapy for Your Horse

Is your horse suffering from an injury, stiff joints, or painful muscles? A range of therapeutic treatments and exercises can speed healing, ease recovery, and even reduce the risk of new injuries.

7 Advantages of Therapy

Many of the same therapies you use when you feel achy or have an injury may help your horse too. Therapy benefits include:

  • Easing Pain. Relieving pain is probably your chief concern if your horse is injured. Therapeutic measures can be as simple as using ice packs or wraps, ice boots, or therapeutic tape to reduce pain. Don't leave ice packs or ice boots on for longer than five to 15 minutes as frostbite could occur.
  • Blocking Pain Signals. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), a treatment often used to reduce pain in people, may also be helpful for horses with painful conditions. Electrodes placed on the skin deliver a mild electrical current that prevents pain signals from reaching the brain. TENS also helps your horse control pain naturally by producing endorphins, hormones that offer a natural pain relief solution.
  • Loosening Tight Tissues. Muscles, tendons, and ligaments can become too tight after an injury or vigorous workout. Massage gently loosens and stretches soft tissues, improving your horse's flexibility and comfort. Stretching exercises can also ease muscle tension and pain. EquiManagement notes that side reins, resistance bands, and long lines can help your horse activate core muscles.
  • Reduced Inflammation. Inflammation can cause swelling, pain, and edema (fluid accumulation) in joints and tissues. Swelling can lead to stiffness that makes it difficult or painful for your pet to move an affected joint. Several therapies, including massage, ice, ultrasound therapy and whirlpool boots reduce swelling, inflammation and pain.
  • Improved Circulation. Swelling can reduce blood flow to an injured area and slow your horse's recovery. Good blood flow is essential, as blood contains white blood cells and nutrients needed for healing. Massage, ultrasound therapy, and heat improve blood flow and and reduce pain.
  • Quicker Healing. Many therapeutic devices and treatments shorten healing time. For example, ultrasound treatments offer a non-invasive way to heal soft tissues. Ultrasound waves heat deep tissues and improve metabolic activity, which is essential for repair of tendons, muscles, ligaments, and wounds. Eighty-seven percent of horses with suspensory ligament injuries benefited from ultrasound therapy in a research study published in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science in 2019. Low-level laser therapy is also helpful for healing and may reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Fewer Muscle Spasms. Painful muscle spasms make it hard to get pain under control. Fortunately, massage, heat, ice, ultrasound therapy, and neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) can help. NMES uses electrical impulses to reduce pain and spasms and can also improve range of motion and strengthen muscles. A research study published in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science in 2022 evaluated the the effects of NMES and dynamic mobilization exercises (DME) on the multifidus muscle, a muscle that helps keep the spine stable. Ten-minute NMES treatments, combined with DME, improved spinal stabilization, according to the study results.
  • Gradual Strengthening of Bones, Joints, and Muscles. Keeping muscles and joints strong is essential to preventing new injuries, but high-impact exercises could worsen the injury. Swimming and water treadmills, two types of hydrotherapy, strengthen and tone muscles safely while improving circulation and heart health and reducing swelling. During water treadmill therapy, your horse walks in water up to its hocks. The therapy can also be helpful for horses with osteoarthritis or those recovering from surgery.

Is your horse suffering pain from an injury or condition? The appropriate therapy could relieve the symptoms and improve your horse's comfort. Contact our office to schedule an appointment with the equine veterinarian to discuss therapeutic options.

Sources:

Journal of Equine Veterinary Science: Assessment of Noninvasive Low-Frequency Ultrasound as a Means of Treating Injuries to Suspensory Ligaments in Horses: A Research Paper, 9/2019

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0737080619303818

Journal of Equine Veterinary Science: Effectiveness of Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation and Dynamic Mobilization Exercises on Equine Multifidus Muscle Cross-Sectional Area, 6/2022

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35307551/

EquiManagement: Equine Rehabilitation Basics, 10/10/2022

https://equimanagement.com/research-medical/equine-rehabilitation-basics/

The Horse: Physical Therapy for Your Horse, 12/21/2022

https://thehorse.com/1107159/physical-therapy-for-your-horse/

NCBI: Animals: Equine Rehabilitation: A Scoping Review of the Literature, 6/2022

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8224607/

The Horse: Hydrotherapy to Rehabilitate and Condition Horses, 4/20/2022

https://thehorse.com/1110773/hydrotherapy-to-rehabilitate-and-condition-horses/

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