Abby Macpherson talks about Equine Hydrotherapy
Ever thought about the benefits of equine hydrotherapy? International event rider Ibby Macpherson chats to Horse Scout about how hydro can help heal injuries and keep healthy horses sound.
What made you launch an equine hydrotherapy business?
When my grandmother died she left me some money and instead of buying a horse (which was tempting) I decided to buy an equine hydrotherapy spa. I’ve been running it for nearly 10 years now. I guess it all started when William Fox Pitt gave me the incredible eventer Igor De Cluis, who was difficult to keep sound. He went in the spa once or twice a day to keep him on the road. It seemed to work — he took me around a few CIC three star events, including Blenheim and Boekelo.
Who’s a regular at your centre?
Numerous people including riders like Jodie Amos who sends her horses to me when they’ve had a big run. When they’re here they go to the hydro spa twice a day, get turned out (we have acres of land here) and have the Activo-Med (magnet therapy) rug on twice a day. It’s like having some R&R — even if there’s nothing wrong, it’s a great preventative measure.
How often do your horses have hydro?
All of my horses have hydro after an event or after they’ve galloped, again as a preventative measure.
And how useful is it in healing injuries?
I’ve seen amazing results for a variety of ailments, although the treatment should be relentless — twice a day, seven days a week. Quite a lot of owners who have used it say they wished they’d tried it before going down the needle route. It is very good at drawing out bruising and infection, but it is also very good at helping to heal fleshy open wounds.
What other treatments do you recommend for horses?
I also take my horses to a nearby water treadmill twice a week (we are hopefully going to put one in our centre here soon) — it’s really good for their core strength and for getting their back more mobile and supple without putting strain on their legs.
Can you briefly explain what the equine hydrotherapy looks like and whether the horses get nervous?
For the horses it’s like walking into a single trailer and after the front and back ramps are raised, it begins to fill with water. The level of the water depends on the injury but typically stops at just above their hocks with underwater jets providing gentle massage. We have a very good routine which seems to work when putting horses in the spa and everything is done very slowly and calmly to ensure that every horse is reassured and doesn’t get stressed.
And what’s the theory behind it?
It’s basically similar to rugby players getting in an ice bath. The cold water (around 2-5 degrees Celsius) initially reduces swelling by making the blood vessels constrict (vasoconstriction), flushing out toxins and afterwards a rush of fresh blood (vasodilation) accelerates the healing process increasing circulation. The water contains salt and Epsom salts so has many of the benefits of sea water.
What do you advise if riders don’t have access to a hydro centre?
Cold hosing is very superficial especially in summer, I’m a firm believer in icing and cold therapy, and that the quicker you cool legs down after a run, the better. You don’t have to buy expensive jelly ice boots, you can’t beat simple good old fashioned ice — the sort you make in ice cube bags. Just tuck some into their boots and apply for 20 minutes, using something like a j-cloth to prevent burning their skin.
Interview by Sam Lewis for Horse Scout
Ibby Macpherson has recently joined Horse Scout Professionals and has a professional profile on our site. To find out more about Ibby Macpherson Eventing and Hydrotherapy click through on the link.