Aqua Pacer Conditioning

Aqua Pacer at the Fair Hill Equine Therapy Center

Aqua Pacer at the Fair Hill Equine Therapy Center

This week I am sharing an article I wrote and published in 2010, discussing Aqua Pacer conditioning.  Enjoy!

Emily Covington and I teamed up with Bruce Jackson at the Fair Hill Equine Therapy Center (F.H.E.T.C.) in Fair Hill, Maryland, to explore the benefits of an underwater treadmill or Aqua Pacer, as part of our fitness regimen. Our training program had always put a strong emphasis on fitness. Our horses lived primarily outdoors rather than being stalled, and we utilized cross-country hacking, free lunging, free jumping, cavalletti exercises and hill climbing to enhance soft and hard tissue strength and cardiovascular health. The Aqua Pacer however, offers several intriguing benefits. Horses working in the above ground, underwater treadmill, use the same muscles, ligaments and tendons as land based exercise but concussive stress is greatly lowered. This high resistance, low impact workout, reduces weight bearing by 40-60%. In clinical settings, Aqua Pacer therapy has been shown to increase strength, fitness and cardiovascular endurance as well as improve range of motion and flexibility. The height of the water and the speed of the treadmill are fully adjustable to achieve specific outcomes.

We took three horses to the F.H.E.T.C., each with different training objectives. The first horse had completely recovered from a shoulder injury but had residual muscle atrophy and uneven forearm mobility that we hoped to improve. The goal for a second horse, an upper level dressage horse, was to further strengthen and supple its topline. Both horses worked in the Aqua Pacer, and in a European freestyle walker daily for 20 minutes each, for 3 weeks. The third horse was BW-Raphael, a yearling colt, I was preparing for Dressage at Devon. Although born with beautiful gaits, he was in an awkward growth stage. The power generated by his hind end was not sufficiently supported through his topline, restricting his forehand expression. Raphael was put on the same program described above for 11 days. Thereafter his program transitioned to 3 days per week of Aqua Pacer sessions along with 2 days per week of in-hand training for an additional 3 weeks.

Our goals for the horses were exceeded with each building considerable muscle through their entire bodies and all showing improved range of motion through the fore and hind limbs. Interestingly, we found the benefits of the Aqua Pacer continued for several months after their sessions ceased and the horses resumed their normal routines. All three continued to build muscle and improve their movement at a rate more accelerated than we would have expected from their typical work and turnout schedules alone.

Many in the Thoroughbred racing industry are well familiar with Bruce Jackson and the rehabilitative services at the Fair Hill Equine Therapy Center. In addition to the Aqua Pacer they also offer hyperbaric oxygen therapy, cold saltwater therapy, shockwave therapy, solarium therapy, magnetic therapies and a host of other adjunct modalities. Although Bruce has been caring and training race horses for more than four decades, many do not know that Bruce actually began his equestrian life riding dressage horses and competing in three-day events. These diverse life experiences uniquely equip Bruce and his team to meet the needs of both racing and sport horses. Extreme care was extended to each horse to insure they had a positive, confident experience and all returned home in superb condition! My yearling colt went on to become Dressage at Devon Oldenburg Champion. Please visit F.H.E.T.C. to learn more about their services and view online videos of each therapy.

Tickborne Diseases in Horses

The prevalence of tickborne diseases in our equine friends is on the rise, with Lyme Disease being the most commonly reported followed by Anaplasmosis and rarely Pirplasmosis.  There is disagreement whether Rocky Mountain spotted fever occurs in equine, but a study conducted in Columbia and published in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene suggests it does.  I created a table (below) describing the characteristics of each disease for easy reference. Continue reading

Stay Vigilant Concerning Tickborne Diseases

Adult Deer Tick

Adult Deer Tick

It’s nearly a daily reality, that I hear about a person or horse contracting a tickborne illness.  I thought it would be prudent to review the facts and share helpful resources.  Not all medical professionals are well versed in tick borne diseases, even in high risk regions, so I encourage you to get educated.  Here on the east coast, at least nine diseases are transmitted by ticks and they include:

  • Anaplasmosis: deer tick
  • Babesiosis: deer tick
  • Borrelia miyamotoi infection: deer tick
  • Ehrlichiosis: lone star tick
  • Lyme disease: deer tick
  • Powassan disease: deer tick/groundhog tick, primarily in the northeast and Great Lakes
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever: dog tick/Rocky Mountain wood tick
  • STARI: lone star tick
  • Tularemia: dog tick/wood tick/lone star tick

The 2014 CDC Tickborne Diseases Manual, does a great job identifying ticks, describing disease symptoms, explaining testing methods and details current treatment protocols.  The information is presented in easy to read tables.  Without a doubt, preventing tick bites is best.  Ticks are most abundant in tall grassy or leaf covered areas, so when working in high risk environments be prepared.  If possible tuck your pants into a pair of tall boots or socks and then spray your legs with insect repellent containing at least 20% DEET.  Several outdoor apparel manufacturers now offer clothing treated with permethrin. Continue reading

My Journey With Raina – Forming a New Partnership

Photo by Emily Covington

Photo by Emily Covington

Thanks for your patience in waiting for the final installment of “My Journey With Raina”. I have been away on a hiking retreat but I am happy to be back with you!  The challenge of building a new relationship with Raina lay before me, and the Lord made clear that my heart towards her needed to become softer and more peaceful. Providentially, the Lord put in place the pieces I needed. I had the good fortune to attend a clinic with legendary horseman, Buck Brannaman, which reconnected me to my “natural horsemanship” roots. Continue reading

My Journey With Raina – Moving Through Loss To Hope

Stephen and I

Stephen and  I

Within a year, I grieved several losses including my beloved brother whom I adored.  Alongside the sadness came increased care giving responsibilities, leaving my heart heavy and my energy depleted.  Raina in particular felt the shift.  Because of her sensitive nature, she needs me to be peaceful and undistracted when I enter into her world.  Continue reading

My Journey With Raina – Finding Healing

Playing to the camera

Playing to the camera!

As a young horse, Raina really enjoyed playing exuberantly in her field, earning a muscle tear at age 4 and a low limb contusion at age 5.  Both injuries required stall rest, cold therapy and NSAID support.  Raina really missed her pasture friends during stall confinement, so I entertained her by rotating stall toys, developed a program of core building and stretching exercises and put her on a natural supplement to prevent ulcers.  Despite these precautions however, Raina developed symptoms of an ulcer after her second injury. Continue reading

My Journey with Raina – The Beginning

BW-Raina at DAD.  Handled by Mårten Walter.

BW-Raina at DAD. Handled by Mårten Walter.

My lovely Raina is the daughter of Royal Prince and our imported mare, SPS Danina.  Born on a miserably wet day in 2005, she was the first foal my son helped me deliver.  Raina was well received at her Hanoverian inspection and later that year took us to the Breeder’s Group Reserve Championship at Dressage at Devon.  In the summer of her 3-year-old year, she was started in-house by Emily Covington and Martina Thiel-Poblotzki.  As with all of our youngsters, Raina was offered for sale.  Though we had a number of showings, no one offered to make her their own.  As the months passed, I heard the Lord’s gentle voice prompting me to develop and retain her. What I did not realize at the time, was the many challenges that lay ahead.  The next three years brought two soft tissue injuries followed by a confusing mix of fore and hind gut issues.  In 2013, Raina was diagnosed with and treated for Lyme disease.  Continue reading