Friday, 21 July 2017

All About ... Swimming Horses

Swimming is sometimes a useful therapy.  It allows limbs and joints to move without weight which can often be less painful after an injury.  The reduction in friction on the joints allows the horse to use their full range of movement.  

The pressure of the water on the limbs helps stimulate the Circulatory and the Lymphatic system which in turn helps with healing.  

Often recovering horses are box rested.  Muscle atrophy (wastage) can be a problem in these situations.  In addition, as they come back into work horses will compensate due to pain by avoiding the concussive forces felt when exercising on the ground.  Swimming will allow the muscles to be used whilst eliminating any concussion.  Thus helping a horse build up their strength without any imbalance.

Swimming can also help relax muscle spasms and nervous tension.  It removes the horse from the confines of box rest and can reduce the chance of secondary injury on a return to work by allowing the horse to utilise excess energy.  

It is important that the horse uses all 4 legs in an even pattern to ensure muscles are worked evenly.  It is also important to build up the swimming time gradually.  Short swims initially will allow the horse to enjoy the experience and build up fitness.  Heart rate and respiration rates should be checked before and after and the horse should not be overstressed.

Straight swimming pools with ramps in and out are the generally thought to be the best.  Unless they are big, circular pools can lead to uneven muscle development but may also constrict the chest and restrict breathing.  The straight pools will allow the horse to be walked gently in (2 lunge lines are used, 1 from each side of the pool) swim the length and exit at the other end.  The horses heart rate and respiration can be checked before another length is swum.

NB: It is a good idea to work with your vet when considering swimming is a therapy.

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