In equestrian sports, results are separated by the smallest of margins, making the quest for a competitive edge ongoing. As a variety of innovative techniques have emerged to enhance the well-being and performance of equine athletes, equine salt therapy has increasingly gained attention. Known for its potential to improve respiratory health, skin conditions, and promote overall wellness, equine salt therapy is showing promising results in boosting performance and aiding in the recovery of sport horses, particularly in the sports of horse racing and show jumping.
Dry salt therapy, also known as halotherapy, is a natural, drug-free treatment for respiratory and skin conditions. During a session, 99.99% pure-grade sodium chloride (salt) is ground and crushed into very tiny micron-sized particles by a halogenerator. These dry aerosol microparticles of salt are then dispersed by the halogenerator into a stall or trailer. As a horse relaxes, the dry salt goes to work inside the respiratory system, acting as an antibacterial agent; clearing secretions; and dissolving bacteria and pollutants lodged in the respiratory tract. Ultimately, this lessens inflammation in the lungs, thins out mucus buildup, improves lung function, and opens breathing passages.
Salt therapy evolved from speleotherapy, a special form of climatotherapy where underground salt caves and salt mines were used to treat several respiratory and skin-related conditions. A halogenerator is a special type of equipment that was developed in the 1970s to replicate the conditions of underground salt caves and produce salt therapy for above-ground facilities. Without a halogenerator, there is no halotherapy.
Because dry salt is ultra-absorbent, the micron-sized particles dispersed into the air and not inhaled into the respiratory system during treatment also permeate into the horse’s skin, absorbing oils and reducing the frequency of irritating skin conditions.
According to the Salt Therapy Association, equine salt therapy may improve respiratory issues like heaves and asthma, as well as common skin conditions like mud fever.
Racehorse conditioners have become big proponents of halotherapy, given that improved respiratory function can lead to stronger cardiovascular performance. For horses that suffer from Exercise-induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage (EIPH), salt therapy offers a beneficial and, just as importantly, all-natural solution. For sport horses traveling on the show circuit, halotherapy can also help with adaptation to different locations’ indigenous allergies and higher seasonal pollen counts.
“Dry salt is like a toothbrush for the lungs. It is anti-inflammatory and antibacterial,” said Leo Tonkin, Founder and CEO of SALT Chamber, who has emerged as the leader in providing equine salt therapy access to horses. “We’ve also found it to accelerate skin recovery.
“Just over 10 years ago when I started SALT Chamber, there were maybe 10 places around the U.S. and Canada,” he continued. “As we started to penetrate the spa and wellness industry, we started working with several trainers in the horse industry. The benefits they are seeing are remarkable.”
The World Equestrian Center – Ocala recently installed a halotherapy room at the venue’s University of Florida Veterinary Hospital. Other equine medical clinics and training centers that have established their own salt rooms by adding a halogenerator and enclosing their permanent stables or mobile trailers include:
- Hagyard Equine Medical Institute – Lexington, Kentucky
- Palm Meadows Thoroughbred Training Center – Boynton Beach, Florida
- JRs Equine Spa and Retreat – Pleasant Hope, Missouri
- Eclipse Equine Sports Therapy Center – Atascadero, California
- Rookery Equine Spa & Therapy, Ltd., – Cheshire, United Kingdom
- Foxhall Equine Rehabilitation Center – Fallston, Maryland
- Seven Mile Livery Limited – Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom
- Amulet Farm Equine Rehab and Conditioning – Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania
“Dry salt therapy is a drug-free, safe, effective treatment that enhances the health and wellbeing of your horse,” Tonkin said. “This isn’t just for horses that have asthma or heaves or other conditions. It’s also for athletes, both human and equine, that are constantly utilizing their lungs for oxygen and red blood cells for endurance, performance, and recovery.”
Creating a salt room for performance horses brought with it a few more logistical challenges than what Tonkin had created in spas and wellness centers, but SALT Chamber got inventive, creating a transportable halotherapy system.
“We actually took a shipping container and completely retrofitted it with a conditioned air space with our equipment,” Tonkin explained. “That’s on the Santa Anita Park racetrack over in California, and they take it and put it at Del Mar Racetrack [during their offseason].”
SALT Chamber has established itself as the equine halotherapy specialists, selling halogenerators and providing turnkey consulting services for the design and buildout of equine salt rooms. To learn more, visit https://saltchamber.info/equine.
Source: Press Release by Catie Staszak / Catie Staszak Media for Salt Chamber
Photos: © SALT Chamber