Equine Hydrotherapy is based on the therapeutic use of cold seawater over the centuries.
The benefits of seawater are numerous, it helps the relaxation of muscles, releases pain in joints and muscles and it is good for the skin. Breathing in the spray of the waves highly improves the soundness of the respiratory system as the seawater compounds more than 90 minerals (the most common are iodine, zinc, potassium, sodium and magnesium) and also micro-elements which heal and strengthen the mucosa of the respiratory system.
The first living beings came out of the ocean – perhaps because it provides all life essential elements.
Due to the gran contribution of minerals it fills up the body with electrolytes provoking the sensation of wellbeing. The mineral nutrition disinfects and heals the skin (diseases and superficial injuries) and improves the general skin condition.
Swimming benefits a horse by conditioning the cardiovascular and muscular systems without putting strain on the joints or subjecting the legs to stress or concussion. As well as being used to fitten horses by providing strenuous exercise, gentle swimming can be used as a method of rehabilitation for horses recovering from an injury.
“The sea washes away all men's illnesses”
- Eurípides -
Benefits of Seawater
The immersion in the ocean at a depth of approximate 1,50m causes a perfect pressure-equalisation of the inside pressure of the body and the outside pressure executed by the seawater. This pressure balance provokes a variety of positive effects, like:
- Increasing the respiratory capacity and oxygen supply thereby the augmentation of red blood cells.
- Amplifying the elimination of toxicants. Due to the fact that seawater has a higher pressure than air it has a drainage effect on the body and therefore stimulates the blood-circulation as well as the lymph stream.
- Activating the circulation.
- Benefitting the heart (weight is eight times less in the water) as action needs less effort.
- Improving muscular mobility and strength.
- Strengthening the bones by absorbing the dissolved micro-elements through the skin. (Thalassotherapy)
Horse Training in the Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean supplies us with a lot of possibilities.
We walk the horses in the calm seawater to take advantage of its positive anti-inflammatory effect on tissues, to improve the healing process of leg injuries, to cure swellings and other diseases and to protect the horse against injury as well as to strengthen its self-confidence, trust and braveness..
In the moment the horse looses the ground under its feet it naturally starts to swim. It is the trainers’ responsibility to guide the horse safely out without drowning its body by putting weight on its back nor getting its nostrils under water though pulling on the lead-rope or reins. The swimming sessions have to be very short in the beginning always making sure that the horse does not get exhausted in the water (no longer than 2-3 minutes per swim). Most horses love to swim in the Ocean once they’d overcome their fear.
However, if practising the swimming in hydro-therapeutic sessions for rehabilitation it is essential to have veterinarian assistance at side.
For some youngsters i also like to use the ocean’s help for getting on them for the first time and let the first ride be a joyful adventure connected with the feeling of safety.
Psychological and mental effects
Different to an artificial pool or a natural lake the Atlantic Ocean challenges the relation between a horse and its trainer on a very high level.
Due to their mainly monocular vision horses naturally get spooked by the white foam of the surge and the movement of the sand. Some get dizzy if they stare into it.
The current that seems to takes away the ground under their hooves is another strong task for the flight animal. Together with the pressure of the seawater and the waves touching the horses body the flight instinct is triggered while flight possibilities are diminished at the same time. This can cause panic in the animal if it does not trust the trainer who is leading it into this foreign and unknown element.
But if the training is based on mutual respect and confidence and the horse has accepted the natural leadership of its trainer as its safety zone, the challenge of the ocean creates a strong bond between the equine and the human.