Duke and His Road to Recovery with Equine Therapy

"Duke" and one of Hanging Heart Ranch's Students

Most horse people will agree that they spend more time thinking about their horse's health than their own, and with all of the advanced horse care options-such as chiropractors, rehabilitation-therapists, and equine masseuses-we have many choices when deciding how to keep our horses healthy. In order to grow our lesson program at Hanging Heart Ranch, it is imperative that all of our horses feel their best. One of our main priorities in the new year has been getting one of our lesson horses, "Duke", back to tip-top shape with the help of the therapeutic techniques at Eclipse Equine Therapy Center.

We often feel the "lesson horse" is unappreciated when compared to fancy hunter/jumpers or cow-horses, but it's these horses that teach the future professionals how to ride. Most of our lesson horses have worked on ranches in their younger years, and now have second careers helping to teach people how to ride. Because we know the true value of a good lesson horse, we definitely find ourselves going above and beyond to keep our horses healthy and happy!

Duke's Biggest Fans & His Natural Balance Shoes

We picked up Duke in April 2015 after he was no longer able to work as a trail horse. Duke has had soundness issues as long as we have known him, which we attributed to him working on difficult terrain with uneven shoeing that was never corrected.  Oftentimes trail horses are required to go over rocky, steep, and uneven ground, and after a while this continuous strain can really wear on a horse’s muscles, especially if their feet are not maintained properly.  Thankfully, after having x-rays taken at the renowned Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Center, it was determined that Duke had no problems with his bones, including navicular, side and ring bone.  

After coming to Hanging Heart Ranch, Duke was placed on a special diet and received corrective shoeing with Natural Balance Shoes. These shoes have a rolled toe, which helps his break-over as well as his contracted heel, to give him the support he needs.  Before these shoes he was moving with his toe hitting the ground first, rather than the correct motion of his heel hitting first. By helping him re-learn to move correctly, we hope that his restored muscle-memory will eventually get him back to 100% soundness.  Retiring Duke from his days of hard trails and steep terrain has helped, but we still find that he does not carry himself correctly, especially in his shoulders, which is where Eclipse Equine Therapy Center comes into play.

We were able to visit Eclipse in January and meet with the owners, Mike & Angie Scully, to come up with a plan for Duke. We were very impressed with the facilities, many services offered, and their extensive knowledge of the rehabilitation process. There is also an on-site vet clinic which tracks progress as well as monitors the horse's health during his stay.  Services offered include Aquatred Underwater Treadmill, Chiropractic Work, Cold Salt Spa, European Walker, and Functional Electrical Muscle Stimulation (FES)

Aquatred Underwater Tredmill

Hydrotherapy is a great way to help recondition and relieve stress on a horse's joints in a low-impact environment.  With the added resistance of water in a low stress situation, this type of rehabilitation has been gaining popularity in the horse community over the past ten years. Eclipse Equine Therapy has an Aquatred Underwater Treadmill, which is designed to allow the horse to walk down a ramp and into the water.  At first, water levels are kept low, allowing the horse to become used to the treadmill; as the horse becomes more comfortable, the water levels and speeds are adjusted to best suit the needs of the horse's rehabilitation program.  The Aquatred helps horses regain balance by exercising each muscle evenly. An example of the process can be seen in the video below. 

Cold Salt Spa

Another amenity at Eclipse is the Cold Salt Water Spa used to treat sore muscles & joints, arthritis and skin issues.  The salt allows the water temperature to be dropped to lower than normal without freezing, which then acts like a natural poultice. When a horse becomes injured, swelling occurs, causing capillaries to constrict and prolong healing time. The spa helps to reduce swelling, greatly reducing recovery time by increasing blood flow. Also used as preventative treatment, many professionals use the salt water spa after an intense workout, in 15 minute increments. By speeding up the healing process and when used as a preventative measure, this therapy is another great addition to Eclipse Equine Therapy Center.

Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES)

Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) is the application of regulated electrical impulses to the surface of the skin, producing a waveform that triggers a neuron in the horse's brain to cause the muscles to contract (see video below).  This therapy has led to significant improvements in muscle density and distribution. Muscles are able to utilize oxygen more efficiently, leading to a reduction of muscle spasms in horses' backs. Other benefits of FES include: improved range of motion due to released muscle tension, reduction in swelling from injury, reduction of scar tissue, re-education of muscle function, & strengthening of muscle tissue.  We believe that all of these benefits can help in our quest to get Duke to move properly; once his muscles begin functioning correctly with the help of FES and the other therapies offered at Eclipse, we are hopeful that Duke can make a full recovery!

We are planning to send Duke to Eclipse Equine Sports Therapy Center for 30 days in April.  We believe that this will be the right path for Duke’s recovery, allowing him to feel his best and enable him to become an all-around great lesson horse.  Keep an eye on our Facebook page for a benefit horse show we will be hosting for our lesson students, to help raise money to send Duke to this state-of-the-art facility. Be sure to check out Eclipse's website (http://www.eclipse-equine.com/) and Facebook page as well.  We can't wait to share updates on Duke's road to recovery!!

-Justine & Michelle