We look at the benefits of using equine treadmill & spa for suspensory ligament rehabilitation in horses.
Suspensory ligament injuries in horses are more common than you’d think. While they can occur in all disciplines there are some that are more prone to suspensory ligament injuries than others. Jumping or awkward landing on uneven ground puts eventers and showjumpers at risk of acute injuries whereas in dressage horses repetitive stress is a huge factor in a ligament injury occurring. Whilst the injury can limit horses exercise and reduce their quality of life there are rehabilitation options available which means your horse can be brought back to work safely and gently.
How Suspensory Injuries Occur
To understand how to rehabilitate suspensory ligament injuries you first need to understand how the injuries occur. Ligaments run down the horses leg and attach bones to each other which act as supports. The suspensory ligament attaches to the back of the cannon bone just below the knee. About 2/3 of the way down the cannon bone, the ligament divides into two branches which attach to the inside and outside sesamoid bones, on the back of the fetlock.
In the upper third of the cannon region, the suspensory ligament lies between the large “heads” of the splint bones. This means it is impossible to feel the ligament, or apply pressure directly to it, so the diagnosis of damage is tricky to detect and will generally require a series of nerve blocks, x-rays and ultrasound.
When sprains or injuries occur it is usually in one of these 3 areas:
- Injury to the upper third of the ligament (called high, or proximal, suspensory desmitis) is common in horses in all disciplines but is often seen in dressage horses.
- Injury to the middle third, two thirds of the way down the leg or body, of the ligament, is easiest to diagnose due to obvious swelling, but less frequent.
- Damage to the inside or outside branch of the suspensory ligament is also common, particularly in eventers or showjumpers.
These injuries are hard to diagnose but often will show via heat and swelling, lameness or a thickness of the ligament. When at it’s worst the lameness will present when the affected leg is on the outside of a circle on soft ground.
Rehabilitation Of Tendon And Ligament Injuries
Working with your equine veterinary you will work to decide on a treatment plan which may include a number of treatments:
- Cooling down the inflammation by cold hosing the area is often a first step. Doing this several times a day combined with an anti inflammatory medication will help to reduce heat or swelling. You can also combine bandaging to help stabilise the ligament to prevent further damage.
- Box or stall rest allows the ligament time to heal and means any excessive movement is controlled exercise such as hand walking to minimise further injury to the ligament. Your vet may recommend box rest for your horse for a considerable amount of time, even up to or beyond three months depending on the severity of the injury.
- Hand walking is best done in an environment which is gentle and low-concussive. Your vet will help you to determine a program but it may start as little as 10 minutes per day.
- Depending on the severity your vet may suggest other treatments such as shock wave therapy or even stem cell treatment.
The healing process for ligament repair is slow and it does require a great deal of time and patience. Even when rehabilitated carefully the success rate can still be low even after several months. However there are ways which you can help your horse using tools and training aids which may improve and speed up your horses recovery time.
The Benefits Of Equine Treadmill And Spa In Suspensory Ligament Injury Rehabilitation
By using equine treadmills as part of your horses suspensory ligament rehabilitation program, you can make sure you have a controlled and supervised space for gentle exercise. Rather than hand walking for hours on a heavy arena surface or on hard roads an equine treadmill is perfect for even ground rehab and allows you to slowly increase the pace of your horses movement.
Additionally an equine water treadmill working in water provides a gentle resistance that strengthens muscles and tendons to initially reinforce the injured areas and keep the horse working lightly. As the speed of work increases, the resistance increases and continues natural and non invasive healing. Simultaneously the water has a cooling effect and provides a natural massage to injured areas.
In recent years, exercise on a water treadmill has grown in popularity due to the benefits of hydrotherapy such as buoyancy, viscosity, hydrostatic pressure, and water temperature. When using a water treadmill you can control many of these factors such as the water depth and speed making it more beneficial and aiding in recovery of acute soft tissue and ligament injuries. By changing the depth of the water you can change the horses stride length and frequency which allows you complete control in your horses rehabilitation.
Aqua walk and trot training can also increase cardiovascular activity, stride length, muscle tone and strength which means your horse will be able to come back to work gently and slowly build up topline and condition.
The Animal Therapeutics Range Of Treadmills
Animal Therapeutics focus on high performance products includes Water Treadmills, Dry Treadmills and Spas. World leading technology and research with years of experience has gone into every high performance product. Each treadmill or spa package and installation is tailored specifically to your needs and space and includes guidance from a complete team of professionals including Dr Matthias Baumann.
Dr Baumann is an Olympic Gold Medal winner and Global Expert on performance horse conditioning and rehabilitation with treadmills and water treadmills. He is actively involved and constantly innovating, ensuring every German manufactured piece of equipment is world class.
Each Activo-Med package comes with at least two days on-site with Dr Baumann, so you can be trained by the best in the world, have specific programs set up and utilise his expertise for any Open Days or promotional activities you may run.
More benefits Of The Activo-Med Water Treadmill
Proving a range of training, maintenance and therapeutic actions, The Activo-Med Water Treadmill offers:
- A controlled, supervised and contained environment in which aerobic exercise can be successfully performed
- Effective exercise for horses performing at all levels of competition and training
- A significant increase in cardiovascular activity, muscle development and tone, strength and stride length through the use of aqua walking and trot work.
- A gentle, low impact and non-concussive environment in which tendons and ligaments can be built and rehabilitated without excessive strain or impact.
- The reduction of swelling and inflammation through cold water treatment
- The option of Saltwater treatment, which assists in the reduction of abrasions, open wounds, infections, hoof and leg injuries, and arthritis
- Support and movement therapy following surgery
- Treatment of spinal, hind end, back and sacroiliac disorders
- Tendon damage and rehabilitation
- Relief and treatment of shin soreness and splints
- The correction of gait imbalances through balanced, low-impact exercise.
If you’re wanting to know more about the entire Activo-Med performance range including our Water Treadmill get in touch with us.
You may be interested in the Activo -Med Leg Wraps.