Rocky Visits the Water Treadmill....

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Rocky visits the Water Treadmill


So, following on from my previous blog where I gave you a warts an all account of what/why/when etc had occurred with Rocky and where we were, here’s a little update for you on proceedings….

Since my last blog sadly we had to have a couple of vet check-ups, even though we had officially been “signed off”, a few niggles occurred, which have been sorted, not really surprising considering the rehab took a, well, “different” approach!

Sorcha has been treating Rocky on a regular basis as now he is able to use his body correctly, he is obviously feeling the effects, well wouldn’t you if you suddenly used muscles that were originally unusable?! Joint wise he is still fine *Touches wood* but his lack of core strength has caused him to keep getting sore in his back, nothing horrific, but we want him soft to allow development, so we discussed the use of a Water Treadmill, the one recommended was at Tweseldown, which is miles away from us, but “doable”, however then I learned of a new therapy centre which recently opened at Wellington Riding, near Basingstoke, somewhere I know well as I used to teach the pony camp there, and only an hour away in the lorry, bonus!

I spoke with Tonya at the Equine Rebalance and Therapy Centre about Rocky’s situation, which she was confident that the water treadmill would indeed help his core strength, as its akin to resistance training and some people have reported that within 3 sessions there was a difference felt in their horses, so I duly booked Rocky in for his first taste. A full explanation of the finer details can be found on their website here:

Friday the 9th June was booked for our introductory session, which at the time of writing is a bargain £15, see their facebook page for current deals.

What I didn’t bargain on when I booked our intro was the fact that Wellington was hosting the annual British Dressage Premier League (!) so not only was the place buzzing, the lorry park was heaving with the likes of the Eilbergs, Assoulines, Gould, Greenwood, Lanning and the list goes on.. so there I am with my groomed – thankfully!!- hairy little coblet, walking through all these thousands of pounds worth of high end dressage horses and riders strutting around in their tailcoats, wow did I feel out of place!! However once the initial OMG get me out of here feeling left, I reminded myself that all those horses all started at the same place rocky did (perhaps not broken!), and got to where they are with training, so I lifted my head up and confidently walked through the millions of pounds worth of equines/lorries and entourage, and found the therapy centre where Tonya was awaiting our arrival.

I had to complete a short form with info about why rocky was there and who was the treating physio and vet, then Rocky had his tail bandaged up and he was taken by a lady (I forget her name, apologise if she reads this!) and Tonya across the immaculate yard to the treatment room where the treadmill is situated.

Rocky Water Treadmill

Tonya led Rocky through the treadmill twice to check he was ok with it, and then he was halted and the front and back doors were closed, a bucket of treats were situated at the front – much to Rocky’s delight- and rocky was fed a few at a time to encourage him to relax and stay at the front. Tonya asked Dean (my husband) to hold a lead rope on one side and the other lady held the other rope to help stabilize him, Tonya stepped up on to the “bridge (?)” where the controls are and began the treadmill, slowly, just like you would if you were to use a human one. Rocky was taken backwards by the belt and then naturally walked forward.

I took some video of the start, which hopefully you can see here:

Rocky learning to organise his legs on the water treadmill at Equine rebalance and therapy centre, Wellington riding Hampshire. from Sharon Johnson on Vimeo.

After about 5 minutes when Rocky had become accustomed to the movement the water was introduced, to which there was a lowering of the head and a look of OMG what is this?? Then an Oh its water, ok, however I now need to lift my legs higher to get through it, which was quite interesting to watch as the range of motion was incredible, just by adding water Rocky was now utilising every muscle he seemed to possess!

Once he became accustomed to the water he became less extravagant and started walking a bit more normally, however the water was definitely creating a resistance even though it was only fetlock height, moving around the unit I could see him using his core and really making an effort, I was asking Tonya what she thought, after all she sees horses daily working on it, and how did Rocky’s back/body/movement compare to others, to which she answered he originally began crooked and not 100% equal in his hind leg length of stride, but as he got going he levelled out and was using himself well, she was a bit more in depth with the information, but that was the answer in a nutshell. There are cameras situated around the unit so Tonya can view what the horse is doing and adjust the treadmill/water levels etc to tailor each treatment to each individual horse, videos of Rocky’s cameras can be viewed here:

Another view of a different camera angle. from Sharon Johnson on Vimeo.

The treadmill has cameras located around it so you Tonya, the lady who operates it, can see what the horses are doing. from Sharon Johnson on Vimeo.

Here is a clip with water:

Another view of Rocky on the Water Treadmill. from Sharon Johnson on Vimeo.

After 10 minutes (ish) the water was drained and Rocky was allowed to come to a steady stop, and recover for a moment before leaving the unit, when he was taken away to a wash down area, yes more water(!) to be washed with a disinfectant to prevent any possible contamination from other horses.

It was a short exercise, but intense, you could see he was tired afterwards, but no more than you or I would be if we did a gym session where we had to do core work!

We discussed a programme for Rocky and arranged for him to go back for more sessions where Tonya can monitor improvement and adjust his programme as necessary, beginning with 2 sessions per week starting this coming week, so hopefully I can report back with improvement updates!

It was genuinely impressive to see how effective the treadmill was at teaching Rocky to work equally and consistently, and not just use the current strong muscles which he has been using, just as we humans do as they are the ones our brain immediately tell us to use as they are stronger, which then allowed his length of stride to increase all without having to worry about a rider to carry.

For a first time, I feel it was incredibly positive and extremely professionally run by knowledgeable people who I felt genuinely cared about the horses and their improvement, not just glorifying a “new toy” and taking peoples hard earned money. I can’t wait for the next visit, I’m not sure Rocky may agree though, he is going to have a core of steel!





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