Alongside massage, stretching and electrotherapies, rehabilitation techniques can be a great way for you and your horse to get the most out of the healing process – especially if your horse cannot be ridden, is on lighter rides or needs to develop muscles. It is a great way to mentally stimulate your horse and can be a great addition into your daily routine.
Your veterinary physiotherapist will have prescribed you specific exercises and demonstrated but here are some of the benefits and rehab methods you may see.
Massage increases blood flow to the area for better tissue repair, it has a pain relieving effect. Different techniques achieve different actions, such as effleurage heats the tissue and increases blood flow. Compression has muscle pumping action helping flush waste out, whilst tapotement can excite ‘unstimulated muscles’. Cross fibre friction can reduce adhesions and scar tissue.
Stretching lengthens tissue fibres, helping to relax them and re-align the fibres. Different stretches are employed depending on which muscle you want to target. They can either help to activate a muscle group or to relax them. Stretching horses can either be active or passive, active stretches usually involve polework or carrots, whereas passive involves the limb or core being activated.
Active stretches are more likely to be given to you as an owner to enhance your horse’s progress between treatments.
Range of Motion
Range of motion isn’t only just a great assessment tool, it is a fantastic way to allow the joints to keep lubricating effectively. Joint fluid is necessary for the bones to slide past each other effectively. Horse joints are difficult to isolate, although possible so they are assessed in movement, and individually to locate restrictions. To increase your horses range of motion it is more likely you will be given exercises to do.
There is a wide range of rehab exercises, they can be extremely basic for the very early stages of condition management or after injury, to the more complex for fine tuning the more advanced horse. They can start from in hand movements potentially involving poles or “isometric” exercises which involve your horse resisting movement to develop muscles. The more established horse may add in millwork to develop hindlimb, raised poles and other athletic exercises to optimise fine tuning the muscles. These exercises make it a fun way for owners to aid their horse’s on the road to recovery as well as mentally stimulating the horse.
Laser, is light therapy, which penetrates the tissues with energy, this energy then creates reactions within the cells as they absorb the light. It can increase productivity of the cells for a greater healing response. It can be used to treat joints, trigger points (nodules of contracted muscles), to relieve pain, or for wound healing.
Pulse Mag (Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy)
Pulse Mag uses electromagnetic currents which stimulates cells. As a problem occurs and cells get irritated which creates an imbalance in their energy potentials. Pulse Mag restores this balance to create optimally functioning cells for increased healing potential.
A variety of settings can be used which may either replicate a heating or icing effect, calming effects or produce pain relief.
Heat is a very effective tool for an owner to apply, or to be used at the start of the session to help relax the tissues. Heat encourages blood flow to the area, along with thermal receptors in the skin sending signals faster to the body and overriding the pain signals from this area. It can lubricate joints and relax muscles for a deeper treatment or prior to stretching.
NB: An interface should always be used between a heat pack and the horse’s body, one has not been used here for illustrative purposes of the type of pack which may be used.
Ice is great for inflammation or swelling in areas, it restricts blood flow to the area so there is less fluid leaking into the damaged tissue. It slows down the metabolic activity of the cells so damage is restricted, as well as being able to overriding pain signals from the area. Icing is great for painful joints or areas where inflammation is occurring. If you do not have access to readily available ice packs, there has been studies showing the benefits of cold hosing.
NB: An interface should always be used between an ice pack and the horse’s body, one has not been used here for illustrative purposes of the type of pack which may be used.