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Equine Spas versus Aqua Trainer Treadmills:

Clarifying the differences between these two popular modalities.

Equine Spa Therapy and Aqua Trainers or Water Treadmills Cause Confusion

The confusion between water treadmills (or aqua trainers) and equine spas is rife. Those familiar with the Water Treadmill think it has similar therapeutic qualities as an Equine Spa with the additional advantage of exercise. In fact, they are totally different modalities with different objectives.

Due to the combination of low temperature with high salt concentrations and aeration, Equine Spa Therapy shows dramatic improvement in acute tendon injuries and wounds, for example. The therapy also promotes strong hoof growth and laminitis responds particularly well if treated in time.

In contrast, a water treadmill (Aqua Trainer)which commonly uses freshwater at the ambient temperature would never be used for treatment of acute tendon injuries or wounds. It excels, however, in the conditioning of the muscles and the heart and lungs while reducing the stress on the tendons and ligaments.

Kathryn Nankervis, who runs the Equine Therapy Centre, at Hartpury College in England, has been using an 'Aqua Fit' water treadmill for several years now and she says:

"We would never use the Aqua-Fit for the acute stage of a tendon or ligament injury or where the horse has wounds or cuts due to the danger of infection.

Typically, a horse with a tendonitis problem would be exercised on our conventional treadmill in the early stages of rehabilitation and then progress to a combination of water treadmill and conventional treadmill exercise later on.

We normally have the water at, or around, knee depth and at this depth the horse will automatically tend to lift the knee and hock (increasing flexion of these joints) in order to minimise the resistance posed by the water. More often than not we use the water treadmill as a tool to aid gait modification as part of our rehabilitation programmes and not as a 'treatment' as such."

Another piece of information supporting this was published on www.jscanlan.com/current_news/ on March 20, 2003. This is an extract:

Daniel Borislow's Toccet, who has been battling ankle problems all year, has been sent to Frank Stronach's farm in Ocala, Fla. for 90 days R&R...... "We'll give him 45 days of walking, then 45 days on the aqua treadmill. Everything at Frank's farm is first class, and he has the best aqua treadmill in the country....."

The interesting point is that they gave him 45 days of walking PRIOR to using the Aqua Treadmill. It is precisely during this walking stage and also with acute injuries prior to the walking stage that the Equine Spa would be most useful. It can, of course, also be used as a preventative medium.

So, in summary, the Equine Spa is much more of a therapeutic [i.e healing] process for tendon and ligament injuries, joint problems, relieving arthritis, promoting hoof growth, founder (laminitis), sore shins, cuts, wounds and general swellings and stiffness. If there is inflammation, heat, pain, or swelling the Equine Spa is the ideal therapy.

The Aqua Treadmill is not a Spa with a Treadmill - it is more of an exercise medium with some therapeutic elements especially in the recovery or post acute phase of the injury.


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