Facilities Just for Four-Legged Professional Athletes

Like any professional athlete, cowboys and cowgirls not only train and condition their bodies to ensure peak performance at each event they enter, but physical rehabilitation therapies are just as important.

While we may think of spas and rehab facilities for only humans, these facilities are just as important for the four- legged athletes who account for half of the performance outcome in any rodeo event.

With millions of dollars on the line, these high performance equines are getting the royal treatment with luxury accommodations at facilities providing the benefits of cold water baths, conditioning pools, vibrating theraplates, as well as massage and magnetic therapy.

From Texas to the Dakotas, these facilities are a regular stop for professional equine athletes. Located in Decatur, Texas, Outlaw Equine Animal Hospital and Rehab (OE) is one of the premier facilities in the United States offering equine rehab, conditioning, dentistry, chiropractic, and full veterinary services and surgical suite for top performing athletes. These include many horses from the trailers of Tuf and Clif Cooper, Trevor Brazile, Jade Corkill, Casey Martin, Patrick Smith, Shane Hanchey, Chayni Chamblerlin and more.

Started by Dr. Josh Harvey, who has always had a passion for finding and treating equine lameness and a vision for a state of the art facility, OE now includes three fulltime equine vets, a full time master certified equine dentist, an on staff equine chiropractor and guest international colleagues providing specialized solutions for equine patients.

“With all of the traveling my horses and I do, Outlaw Equine does a great job keeping my horses healthy so injuries are few and far between,” said World Champion Tie Down Roper and Professional Rodeo Athlete, Tuf Cooper.
Like many of the therapies used for human athletes, equine specialized therapies are geared toward top performance athletes who need quick recovery and advanced solutions.

Cold Saltwater Therapy
One of the staple treatments offered at OE are the cold saltwater chambers. Used by human athletes for decades, the equine use of saltwater therapy is known to bene t a wide variety of ailments such as chronic arthritis, blunt trauma, post surgical rehab, open wounds, abscesses, soft tissue tears as well as to prevent or decrease in inflammation in joints.

Adjusting the salt concentration in these therapies, while reducing heat can also aid in the body’s natural defense systems, much like a hyperbaric chamber for humans would. “My horses use the saltwater therapy the most. It really helps to draw out in inflammation and soreness,” said Cooper.

Lights, Vibration and Magnetic Therapy
Equine Theraplates, which are an equine sized platform using vibrating pulses, are another key feature of many equine spas and rehab facilities. The Theraplate’s vibration aids in increasing the blood flow and circulation throughout the horses legs and body, providing a quicker recovery time between performances while decreasing any body, back or limb soreness. While standing on the Theraplate, horses are able to bene t from OE’s overhead Solarium providing Vitamin D and promoting overall horse health and wellness, especially in the winter months.

One newer therapy used at OE is called the Cytowave, a magnetic therapy which has shown positive results in healing many tendon, ligament and bone injuries.

“All of our rehab horses are rechecked at least twice per week by myself or their attending vet and a rehab program is devised to help that particular horse progress,” said Dr. Harvey.

Equine Swimming Pools
Depending on the therapy needed, there are two types of pools used for conditioning or rehab, a full sized in ground pool, or single stall sized water walker.

In ground, full sized swimming pools are great therapy for horses recovering from a certain injuries or illness that would bene t from a lack of impact or concussion such as navicular, corns or soft tissue damage.

“Swimming is an impact free way to condition horses muscles, body and lungs for the rigors of life on the rodeo trail,” Dr. Harvey added.

The new Equine Water Walker at OE offers similar benefits to swimming and has proven to be a great muscle building and endurance tool for rodeo athletes. The therapeutic use of the walker aids in horses gaining wider range of motion and increased flexibility to tendons and ligaments from an assortment of injuries.

“We rehab a lot of anxious high powered athletes, it’s amazing the confidence they gain after a few days in the water and helping them gain their balance swimming. We try to take our time with each new horse and allow them time to watch others go, study the ramp and take one step at a time, said Ashley Rice, Equine Rehab Manager at OE.

Weather’s Impact on Athletes
Halfway across the country in Dickinson, North Dakota, another facility is offering swimming to equine athletes on a similar, equine AquaTred. The AquaTred combines the use of an equine sized treadmill and stall sized swimming pool. Hande Equine Therapy owners Jamie and Travis Hande, take on a number of equine athletes not only for therapy, but for conditioning due to the long winter season of the north.

Ten swims in the pool is the equivalent to one month’s worth of riding outside, but without the weather, and the impact and concussion on the horses hooves, legs and body. With limited ability to ride and condition horses outside in winter months, swimming has become a key alternative to keeping athletes ready to perform.

Hande can adjust the water levels in the pool for different patient rehab needs and for the amount of resistance needed in conditioning. Horses are able to move on an even body plane and achieve about 60 percent buoyancy in the pool.

“We notice a big difference in fractious minded horses, they seem more calm and it’s noticeable that they enjoy the pool and leave with more confidence,” said Jamie Hande.
When asked about how she came to discover the use of swimming and it’s outcomes, Hande referred to her own personal experience with a horse who had suffered from the West Nile Virus.

“My good barrel racing mare was never really able to gain back the body condition she had lost after West Nile. When we took her to another facility to swim, she came back a completely different horse mentally, and had regained her strength and muscle tone,” said Hande.

Professional barrel racer Britany Diaz is a regular at the facility, and it also has swam World Champion barrel racer, and World Champion Barrel Racer, Fallon Taylor’s great mare Baby Flo on a tour of northern rodeos last summer.

Combined with a new equine walker, massage, Theraplate and some TLC, Hande Equine is attracting clients from across the Midwest seeking advanced care for equine athletes.
With the rise of professional rodeo events and new therapies for humans being proven for equine’s, the demand for specialized care is on the rise.

After a day at the spa, these four-legged athletes are ready to hit the road and perform at peak levels with their human counterparts.

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