Everyday Therapy from ComfortStall
Saturday, August 7, 2021
Franklin, Tenn. Premier Equine in Whiteboro, Tex., is a one-stop-shop for cutting-edge horse care. Owner William Rhoads, DVM, DACVS DABVP, and Kelley A Jones, DVM, offer veterinary services ranging from pre-purchase exams and performance evaluations to surgeries and regenerative medicine. Premier's Sports Medicine Center helps injured equine athletes get back in fighting form and helps perfectly healthy horses with peak performance and injury prevention.
Two years ago, Dr. Rhoads invested in Haygain's ComfortStall Sealed Orthopedic Flooring because of its similarly wide range of benefits. As active members of the American Association of Equine Practitioners and the Texas Equine Veterinary Association, Drs. Rhoads and Jones were familiar with the unique flooring.
ComfortStall is comprised of a layer of orthopedic foam and a single-piece durable top cover that is sealed to the stall wall. The benefits made sense in theory and standing on samples of the flooring at conventions sealed the veterinarians' determination to install it in their practice.
In 2019, six stalls in the Sports Medicine Center were outfitted with ComfortStall, along with another in a surgery prep and recovery room.
The Premier Sports Medicine Center has personal origins for Dr. Rhoads. The accomplished reining competitor's champion mare, Mega Maggie Mae, sustained an elbow injury as a 3-year-old. He was not comfortable leaving her in the care of others, especially at a rehab center without daily veterinary supervision. Appreciating the many advances in equine sports medicine, he'd long been tempted to establish his own clinic. Maggie's injury became the catalyst for doing so in 2016.
The Center features the best treatments and equipment for rehabbing injuries and enhancing performance, injury prevention, and longevity. Regenerative laser therapy, a water treadmill, cold water therapy, and a three-dimensional vibration machine, the Relax Plate, are a few of the Center's available treatments. They put horses on par with elite human athletes in the level of care they receive to return to or excel in their athletic endeavors.
Cushion & Support
Manufactured by Haygain, ComfortStall supports the good effects of all those treatments and offers health benefits of its own. As its name implies, the flooring provides comfort for any horse. Patients requiring longer stays, and those being treated for laminitis, get first dibs on the Center's ComfortStalls. The orthopedic form provides cushion for joints and hoofs and encourages patients to lie down more often and for longer stretches.
Bedding is needed only in quantities sufficient to absorb urine: not for cushion. With or without bedding, ComfortStall allows the horse to "choose its footing," Dr. Jones explains. Whether dealing with an injury or the tender footedness of laminitis, the horse is the best judge of what stance is most comfortable to bear its body weight in the stall. ComfortStall facilitates that choice, she comments.
Because rest is important to healing, recovery, and conditioning, the flooring's ability to encourage more time lying down is a big plus. For laminitic horses especially, it's great to get them off their feet, Dr. Jones says. These footsore patients often arrive at the Center wearing padded hoof boots and getting a ComfortStall usually allows them to go without that encumbrance.
As with people, horses benefit from almost any form of physical movement. The slight degree of give in the ComfortStall surface requires the horse to make tiny muscle movements to maintain its balance. It's a great form of natural therapy.
"We hope people will become more aware of the benefits of this," Dr. Jones states. Premier Equine Sport Center's Relax Plate treats horses with gentle vibrations that move the horse in all four directions, she explains. "That causes the horse to actually sway to find its balance. That starts to fire muscles that are not normally activated in a training session. ComfortStall kind of does the same thing."
Constant Muscle Movement
Having required rehab herself on a few occasions, Dr. Jones likens ComfortStall to a less intense version of a balance board used in physical therapy for humans.
"It’s the same concept because it initiates muscle movement and builds muscle memory." Visiting horse owners understand the concept quickly when they walk on a ComfortStall at the Center. "When they step into the stall, it's springy and they have to find their balance on it," Dr. Jones says.
Continual muscle movements prompt blood flow. "We are always about promoting blood flow because any increase in blood flow helps take out the bad inflammatory cells with it," Dr. Jones explains. "We're always working to lessen inflammation in the horse's body."
The flooring is good for the Center's cleaning crew, too. Stalls are easily disinfected between patients, using a hose-down and Rescue to eliminate bacterial and viral particles. Premier had the flooring installed with a drain to make the process even easier.
The veterinarians have Haygain's ComfortStall in two stalls at their private barn, too. For the Sports Medicine Center and their home barn, it was a substantial initial investment, Dr. Jones acknowledges. "From a business standpoint, we see how it cuts down on the amount of time spent cleaning stalls and the amount of bedding needed. It can pay for itself."
No single piece of equipment or treatment is a magic pill in equine rehab and conditioning, Dr. Jones emphasizes. Used together and combined with patience and expert supervision, many factors play their part.
For the part of the day that requires confinement, horses who can stand or lie down on ComfortStall get a jump start toward better health.