Ocala, FL – This month, the University of Florida Veterinary Hospital at WEC celebrates one year of service since its grand opening, providing excellence in patient care for equine athletes and companion animals on site as well as from the surrounding community.
With support from the UF College of Veterinary Medicine and WEC, our equine hospital continues to build its bench of expertise, with three expert clinicians who are board-certified in equine sports medicine and rehabilitation. Our internationally respected specialists are seasoned performance horse veterinarians who are well-versed in both traditional and novel therapies. All have broad skill sets and boast extensive, multidisciplinary experience. We pride ourselves on the collective expertise we bring to every case seen and treated in our beautiful new 40,000 square-foot facility.
Our sports medicine specialists provide performance evaluations for musculoskeletal, neurologic, respiratory, gastrointestinal, cardiac, and other conditions. They also offer evaluations for purchase and leasing of horses. They work closely with our board-certified equine diagnostic imaging specialists, who provide ultimate expertise in interpreting results rendered through our extensive imaging capabilities, including standing MRI, standing CT scan, standing PET scan, digital radiography, and digital ultrasonography.
We bring several approaches to the optimization of performance in the equine athlete. To enhance performance in the sound horses, we offer baseline performance examinations and consultation to all of our equine patients. We focus on identifying any potential weaknesses that may be unnoticeably affecting performance or subclinical injuries that could become problems.
To improve performance in horses not performing to potential, we offer diagnostic performance evaluations, making use of our state-of-the-art diagnostic tools as needed to identify the source of decreased performance and develop an appropriate diagnostic and treatment plan to address whatever problem your horse might be facing.
Depending on our findings during the initial examination process, we may recommend directed conditioning and strengthening programs and therapeutic options, which we offer through a variety of modalities available on-site. Those include hydrotherapy via underwater treadmill, halotherapy in our dry salt room, vibration therapy through whole-stall Theraplate to promote joint stability and improve balance and coordination, infrared light therapy through our Solarium to promote muscle health and many other options as well.
We have two underwater saltwater treadmills, one cold and one warm, available for therapeutic and conditioning uses. The use of cold water results in vasoconstriction, reducing inflammation, blood flow and fatigue. Warm water causes vasodilation, which also helps reduce inflammation, but increases blood flow and warms tissue to allow for increased elasticity of muscles and joints, and activates the parasympathetic system, or “relax mode.” Water temperature and water height will be tailored to your horse’s need and goals. Exercise in water has been shown to increase joint mobility in horses’ limbs and back, improve muscle strength and control, and increase aerobic capacity, all while decreasing impact. These treadmills may be useful as part of your horse’s regular training schedule; they can add fitness and engage muscle groups not used during routine training, while limiting the impact on soft tissues, bones and joints. Horses enjoy the novelty of the experience, as well as the break from their weekly routine.
Dry salt therapy, or halotherapy, is derived from an age-old practice of dry salt cave therapy. It involves the aerosolization of high quality, finely ground salt particles into a specially built low humidity-controlled room. While a new therapy in veterinary medicine, early reports in horses have claimed multiple benefits for conditions as including COPD, equine asthma, sinusitis, scratches, and bacterial and fungal skin infections. For treatment, the horse simply stands in the halogenated room for 20-30 minutes two to three times per week.
In our Theraplate stall, horses can receive vibration therapy while comfortably munching on hay. Vibration therapy delivers horizontal and vertical oscillations to stimulate continuous small muscle contractions mimicking the horse’s natural movement. These muscle contractions improve cardiovascular and lymphatic circulation, resulting in increased tissue oxygenation and removal of metabolic waste. Vibration therapy promotes joint stability and improves balance and coordination. Core strengthening exercises can be combined with vibration therapy to improve musculoskeletal and neurological function. Additionally, vibration therapy has been shown to decrease stress hormones such as cortisol, and, in people, promotes an overall sense of well-being.
In our Solarium stall, horses receive infrared light therapy to increase temperature and blood flow, specifically to the back and hindquarter musculature, allowing for relaxation of tight muscles. This treatment also improves oxygenation of tissue, and increases tissue metabolism and the removal of metabolic toxins, such as lactic acid. Infrared light therapy has also been shown to decrease stress and induce a relaxed state through increases in serotonin and decreases in cortisol.
In addition to these key modalities, we also provide chiropractic manipulation therapy, directed strengthening and flexibility exercise programs with incorporation of use of training aids such as balance pads and the Equiband system, LASER therapy, NMES/TENS, Shockwave therapy, therapeutic ultrasonography and other integrative approaches to provide the optimal program for your horse.
Learn more about all of our services at hospitals.vetmed.ufl.edu/wec or contact us at (352) 414-3858 for information and appointments.