Swimming has long been known to be an excellent form of exercise for humans, and a way to keep in shape and improve muscle strength without putting a heavy strain on joints. Equine hydrotherapy is rapidly becoming popular in horse communities across the world for exactly the same reason, and is being used to treat all manner of lower leg lameness.
There are a couple of different types of equine hydrotherapy available, depending on the needs of your horse. One option is an underwater treadmill, where the horse is submerged in water and asked to exercise on the treadmill. Additionally, a gentle swimming program added to your horse?s normal routine can be a great method of conditioning without adding extra strain to his muscles. However, be aware that horses are not strong swimmers and the addition of swimming to a training program should not be undertaken without consultation with a veterinarian first.
Equine hydrotherapy spas have also been proven to be beneficial for horses with tendon injuries, and also as a preventative measure for horses exercised regularly on hard ground. These spas use cold water with a high salt, oxygen, and mineral content to heal everything from tendon injuries to laminitis to deep lacerations.
As with any type of water therapy, be aware that frequent wetting and drying of your horse?s hooves can lead to cracking, dryness, or soft feet. Also, many horses have an innate fear of water, and it may take some time to get your horse to a point where he is comfortable with having his legs and body immersed. Go slowly, be patient, and do not push him beyond his capabilities. Safety is of the utmost importance for both you and your horse, especially when swimming. Be cautious that your horse does not roll or otherwise trap you underwater.