When Bobby and I drove past Equicare on our way home from Arizona and I realized exactly what kind of facility it was, I tucked that tidbit of information in the back of my mind. I figured that maybe someday I’d call and ask about pricing… I guess I just assumed it would be expensive, since it seemed fancy.
Then a couple weeks ago a friend of mine posted on facebook about taking her horse there, so I messaged her and asked her what she thought about it and what the prices were like. I was blown away by how cheap it was – only $35 for the aquatred and $45 for the saltwater spa. I did a bunch of research online about both, called and talked to the owner of the facility, and booked Henry an appointment.
I was especially interested in the aquatred because Henry is conformationally weak and perpetually a bit stiff in his lower lumbar area. Engaging that part of him is really difficult for both of us, and while we’ve had some success using certain exercises under saddle, it’s obviously been really slow going and not particularly consistent. The aquatred is supposed to be great at targeting those muscles.
I also wanted to put him in the saltwater spa, just to see what we thought about that treatment. Henry’s got the typical wear and tear on his ankles that you see in horses that raced, and now he has another fairly demanding career full of galloping and jumping. Anything that could help reduce inflammation and increase blood flow to his precious lower limbs is a-ok by me. Plus he banged his hind ankle pretty hard while playing out in the field a couple weeks ago, and while superficial, it’s been slow to heal. You claim the saltwater spa can help both things? Sign us up.
We started out with the aquatred. They led another horse through in front of Henry to let him see that he wasn’t gonna die, and then started leading him slowly down the ramp. He planted his feet for a couple minutes and took a good look with several snorts, but eventually acquiesced and very gracefully (heavy sarcasm) walked down the ramp into the water. You have to play this video, if only to see his face at the end.
Once he walked forward onto the actual treadmill part they let him stand for a minute to settle, then slowly started adding a little speed until he figured out how to walk in the water. As soon as he started moving he was golden, and plodded right along.
It was REALLY cool to watch him in there and see exactly what muscles were getting the most workout. Pretty much all of their “sit” muscles, basically, and a wider range of motion than they normally use. I had to video it because it was so cool to see all those muscles working from above.
Since it was his first time they left the jets off (the jets add extra resistance to the water to increase the intensity of the workout) and only had him stay in for about 7 minutes. They prefer to start them slow and gradually build up, so the horses don’t get too anxious or tired or sore. Even though he’s a really fit horse, he was still a little bit veiny from exertion when he came out of the water.
From there they stuck him on the equiciser, to let him walk and settle and chill out for a bit before he got into the saltwater spa. The spa is a little bit of an intimidating looking machine, and it fills with very cold water, so they want to start with a calm horse.
After a few minutes on the Henny-Go-Round (which I found endlessly entertaining, although he spent most of the time tormenting poor Wyatt, the very sedate QH they put in with him as a buddy) they brought him in, hosed his legs off, picked his feet, and put a diaper on him. Yep, you read that right. No pooping in the saltwater spa.
I thought he might be a little dumb about this one, because its a small narrow space that they have to step up into, but he walked right in, they closed the doors, and then it slowly started filling (up to his knees) with water. His eyes bugged out a little at first, then he started wanting to paw and play with the water, but for the most part he was totally chill about it. After a few minutes he started making his normal goofy Henry faces, which usually means he’s bored.
Once that was done the machine drained the water, he walked out, and then they stuck him back on the equiciser while the owner showed me around and told me about all the cool new stuff they’re adding. It’s already an awesome facility, but it’ll be pretty incredible when they’re done. I’m pretty excited to know that this place is only about an hour’s haul away… I see lots more aquatred in Henry’s future!