Aquatraining is a form of hydrotherapy. It is like physiotherapy in water. Aquatraining makes it possible to get horses exercising with less strain on the joints and tendons. The equipment used to this end is an aquatrainer for horses, a treadmill in the water.
Aquatraining is used for both the training and rehabilitation of sport horses. It has been proven to be effective for such purposes as:
- Tendon injuries
- Back problems
- Post-operative recovery
- Preventive training
- Strengthening muscles
The aquatrainer enables horses with joint, tendon or bone problems to get exercising early on in the rehabilitation process. Buoyancy makes the horse ‘lighter’ in the water. It takes a lot of strength for the horse to move against the water pressure, because it has to use its entire body. Yet there is less strain on joints and tendons. This allows swift rebuilding of muscle mass rather than weakening.
Aquatraining uses cold water. Thus simultaneously cooling the joints and tendons. One significant benefit compared to other forms of hydrotherapy is that a horse in an aquatrainer can be fully controlled and continue to move straight ahead.
Aquatraining is a good addition to sport horse training. You can adjust water heights (to training goals), the pace of the treadmill and, of course, the time the horse spends in the aquatrainer. For healthy horses, aquatraining is primarily used to improve suppleness in the back and leg joints, to build muscle strength or to train balance and coordination. Horses whose gait is askew are helped to walk straighter in the aquatrainer.
Hydrotherapy has a number of benefits compared to regular therapy:
- There is less strain on joints and tendons, and moving against the water resistance encourages rebuilding of muscle mass rather than weakening.
- The (hydrostatic) pressure of the water and the movement of the horse through the cold water reduce swelling, inflammation and oedema. Sensory receptors in the skin are stimulated, thereby reducing pain.
- Getting the horse to move in a straight, controlled manner considerably reduces the chances of injuries being aggravated. What’s more, the horse will work off its energy, making it less likely to exhibit spirited behaviour in the stables.
- Horses find aquatraining to be a pleasant change from their usual routine.
Aquatraining is often used for:
- Horses with tendon injuries (intermediate tendon and flexor tendons)
- Horses with arthrosis
- Horses with back problems
- Horses recovering from an operation
- Horses with weak hindquarters
- Horses with problems due to misalignment
- Horses with bridle-related problems
- Horses with poor condition or overweight
- Horses that need to be made stronger for certain exercises
- Horses that exhibit undesirable behaviour during riding
It is not just saddled horses that benefit from aquatraining. It can also be beneficial for young horses, e.g. in preparation for taking riders. In such cases, the aquatrainer will enable you to train the young horse to walk in a straight line. The horse will also be stronger before it starts carrying riders.
Aquatraining horses is something that should always be done with the guidance of a professional, using a water level, speed and frequency tailored to the individual horse. Incorrect use of an aquatrainer can be counterproductive and contribute to or aggravate injuries. Which is why it’s important that after purchasing an aquatrainer you amass knowledge and experience with the guidance of an aquatrainer specialist.
An aquatrainer is a piece of equipment that requires knowledge and expertise. Unfortunately lack of awareness occasionally leads to horses being incorrectly trained and there are aquatrainers on the market that facilitate incorrect movement, with all the consequences that this entails. Horse welfare is a top priority for us. Which is why we developed the aquatrainer total concept and launched the Aquatrainer Academy in 2017. Got an aquatrainer or keen to purchase one? Then do please ensure that your knowledge is up to scratch and take a look at one of our aquatrainer courses.