The Ultimate Equine Therapy

Health Maintenance

Using the Niagara Equissage system regularly will help to promote good general health, and improve the skin, coat and hooves, and keep your horse in peak physical condition.

HORSE COLIC IS  #1 cause of death in horses 




There are a large variety of physical causes of horse colic including;

  • Impaction – e.g. of feed or worms
  • Olvulus – rotation of the gut
  • Torsion – twist in the gut
  • Thromboembolic – blood clot
  • Hypermotility – over-activity of the intestinal tract
  • Strangulation – disruption to the blood supply
  • Symptoms of horse colic
  • Increased temperature
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Patchy sweating
  • General Distress – e.g. horse looking at his flanks, kicking the abdomen, repeated rolling and restlessness

Anatomical predisposing factors include the unfixed position of the left colon, narrowing of the right dorsal colon, the caecum blind sac, upward movement of ingesta, the long mesentery of the small intestine and the inability to vomit.

Management factors involved in horse colic include diet, diet changes, environment (e.g. box, pasture, sandy soil, weather conditions), exercise routine changes, and vices e.g. windsucking.

Certain physical conditions can predispose horse colic, for example, a heavy intestinal worm burden, teeth problems and scrotal hernias in colts.




However, please use with absolute caution as the use of Niagara Equissage should only be considered in a spasmodic case – and then only if the discomfort present in the horse is mild. While many horses quite regularly get “a bit colicky” and there is often no need to call a veterinary surgeon as owners are quite able to manage the condition themselves, obviously there are times when swift veterinary intervention is of utmost importance, such as when a twisted gut or impaction is suspected. A seemingly mild spasmodic colic can readily result in a twist.

Niagara Equissage cannot correct a twist – surgery is required. Its use will only make a bad situation worse.

If used when there is an impaction, there is the theory that the massaging effect will help to clear the impacted material by stimulating the muscles of the gut (peristalsis) into moving the mass that has built up. However remember that whilst the impacted material is in situ the body continues to absorb moisture from it so all the time the impaction is becoming more difficult to move. By trying to stimulate the body into forcing the material along the intestinal tract whilst it is so hard can cause damage to the gut lining as well as adding to the pain the horse will already be in.



In a mild case of acute horse colic the gentle massaging effect – by using the Back Pad on a low setting for a few minutes – can help to ease the muscular spasms of the gut wall particularly in cases where the most likely cause of the colic can be attributed to a stress-related issue (such as a sudden change in routine, a fright or travelling) or eating too soon after strenuous exercise. It is not advisable to apply the Back Pad for long periods at a time; much better to use for just 5 minutes every 20 minutes. This allows Niagara Equissage to have an effect, but not be too much of a stimulant which could compromise the condition and also allow the owner to assess the situation.

In more severe cases, once the horse’s condition has been effectively stabilised and has remained so for several hours, then the Back Pad can be used on a low setting for 20 minutes for the next few days to help relieve and soothe tender muscles as well as restore and promote good circulation.

If surgery has been necessary, then Niagara Equissage is a wonderful therapeutic tool to help restore the horse to full health. A horse that has been through the rigours of surgery will be quite tender and a gentle massage will help to soothe and relax muscles. Until sutures are removed then use of the Hand Unit alone is recommended on the upper body and lower legs.

As stall rest is necessary for a period of time, the benefits to the horse are immeasurable. The use of Niagara Equissage can guard against stiffness and filled legs, promoting muscle tone and good circulation. Regular use of Niagara Equissage as part of the horse’s daily management routine will see them happy and relaxed which in turn will help to retain a healthy appetite and promote normal bodily functions. Do not be tempted to use a setting that is too high; No.3 – No.4 is quite sufficient, certainly until the horse is well recovered. Niagara Equissage can remain part of the daily routine as the horse returns to work.

For the stall-rested horse, Niagara Equissage can be safely used 3 times a day, although a lower setting is recommended for no longer than 20 minutes each time so as not to over-stimulate. Localised use of the Hand Unit can help with horses that are prone to tightening of the hamstrings and back muscles, as well as on the neck muscles.

Point to Note: If you have used your Niagara Equissage machine to treat horse colic prior to calling the vet, you should advise of this.


Respiratory problems often go undetected as they are not always accompanied by any clinical signs e.g. coughing, nasal discharge. The most common respiratory problem affecting adult horses is Recurrent Airway Obstruction (RAO) which was previously known as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Other respiratory problems include Exercise-induced Pulmonary Haemorrhage (EIPH), Secondary bacterial respiratory infections (e.g. Influenza) and Viral Respiratory infections, which are common in horses.

Niagara Equissage can help with a range of respiratory problems, the unique cycloid action is very beneficial as it can reduce spasms and help to clear mucus from the respiratory tract. Respiratory conditions often result in congestion of the airways as a result of excess mucus and inflammation. The cycloidal vibrations help to shift this mucus and reduce inflammation.

The Niagara Equissage massage therapy system works well to alleviate coughs and help breathing, particularly in bleeders as lung fluid and pressure may be reduced. The Niagara Equissage Hand Unit, which should be used in conjunction with the Niagara Equissage Pad, can be used to help treat general and specific respiratory problems e.g. thick-winded horses.



In general, the majority of breathing problems, including bleeders and thick winded horses will be treated by the Niagara Equissage Back Pad used on a daily bases in the saddle position for 20 minutes at speed 4. However, we recommend the use of the Hand Unit in conjunction with the Back Pad prior to strenuous exercise for optimum care and results.


Is a term used to describe a horse that displays behaviours or symptoms indicating back pain.

Many horses considered to be ‘cold backed’ respond to saddle pressure by dipping or raising their backs. Horses may show symptoms when the saddle is initially put on or the rider first mounts. After the back muscles warm up symptoms disappear.

It is thought that the acute reaction seen in horses with cold back is caused by stimulation of sensitive nerve endings. Such stimulation may be caused by an ill fitting saddle or stretching of immobile or injured tissue.



Yes it can.

However it is important in the first instance to eliminate any obvious causes due to the saddle, chiropractic issues (such as Kissing Spine), soreness triggered by a rider sitting inaccurately over a period of time, incorrect muscle development, etc.

Even when all possible causes have been ruled out, some horses remain “cold backed” due to increased sensitivity in the saddle area. By using Niagara Equissage to thoroughly warm the muscles of the back prior to being ridden, the horse instantly rounding its back when mounted can effectively be ruled out.

Even though such horses are routinely lunged prior to being mounted to help release tension and stretch the muscles, this does not always prevent a tentative few moments under saddle as some horses do not relax enough for this to be of benefit.

Niagara Equissage has the advantage of reaching much deeper into the body and so having a positive effect on the secondary layer of muscles as opposed to just having an effect on the superficial layer, it builds up uniform heat throughout the muscles as well as working on all the muscles as a whole so that generally the horse is more loose and relaxed – all without any weight initially being placed on the back.



A routine 20 minute application (medium or higher setting if the horse will allow) to act as a preliminary warm-up prior to the horse being tacked up is all that is required to manage cold back.

As it is muscle that is the target area, then a higher setting will be of more benefit so as to provide a thoroughly therapeutic massage.

Point to note: After working the horse or at the end of a hack, be sure to allow a few minutes walking on a long rein encouraging the horse to stretch and relax its back muscles – which of course is all part of a good management routine anyway.


Is a condition involving inflamation of a joint, usually accompanied by pain, swelling and stiffness. 

Depending on the severity a horse may remain completely sound or become extremely stiff.

Horse Arthritis can occur as a result of;

  • Infection
  • Trauma
  • Degenerative changes
  • Metabolic disturbances

Various forms of arthritis exist, for example osteoarthritis.

The inflammation increases the amount of fluid within the joint and usually causes visible swelling in that area. This then causes the horse pain when the joint is flexed. Arthritis in horses is quite a common condition.



Most definitely.

Depending on the severity of each individual case of horse arthritis and the extent of the associated swelling, your vet may prescribe NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) so that your horse is more comfortable. However it is perfectly safe to use Niagara Equissage alongside such treatment without conflict.

Daily applications of Niagara Equissage will significantly reduce the swelling – naturally – as the deep cycloidal massage reaches all the parts of the body promoting good circulation both of the blood and lymphatic systems. Use of Niagara Equissage also creates warmth within the body and that warmth also helps the healing process of horse arthritis. If your horse has to have NSAIDS, then by using Niagara Equissage you are helping the body more readily eliminate the toxicity such drugs have.



Use the Back Pad in conjunction with the Leg Boot if a lower limb joint is affected with arthritis. If possible a twice-daily treatment will be of more benefit especially if the swelling is quite severe; or for use in chronic cases (such as the older horse/pony where generally age has caught up with him) or for general maintenance, then once a day is suitable, preferably prior to exercise if the horse is still in work.

Use the Back Pad for the full 20 minute cycle on a medium setting; if using the Leg Boot as well then 10 minutes is the optimum time for that. If, for example, the hip joint is affected with arthritis, then again use the hand unit in conjunction with the Back Pad for maximum benefit.

Point to Note: If holding the Hand Unit or placing it in the Leg Boot, ensure that the rubber cap is placed against joints – particularly the knee joint – as the vibration against the bones can cause or increase discomfort.


Is a metabolic disorder that is linked to glycogen accumalation during rest.

It is thought that glycogen accumulation increases muscle cell volume which in turn decreases capillary perfusion of muscle.

During exercise a lack of oxygen results in a build up of lactic acid which causes swelling of the muscle cells and therefore capillary constriction. Anoxia (lack of oxygen to the muscles) causes degeneration of muscle fibres. This is why Equine Rhabdomyolysis results in muscle pain and in severe cases permanent damage.

Symptoms of Equine Rhabdomyolysis Syndrome

The clinical symptoms of Equine Rhabdomyolysis include;

  • Swollen, hard and sensitive gluteal muscles
  • Reluctance to move
  • Progressively shorter strides
  • Pain
  • Sweating
  • Pawing
  • Flanking
  • General signs of distress

Myoglobinuria may also occur; this is when myoglobin is present in urine. Myoglobin is released as result of muscle damage and reaches the kidneys via the blood stream. This can lead to discoloration of the urine and in severe cases myoglobin may damage the kidneys leading to renal failure.

The onset of Equine Rhabdomyolysis usually occurs early on during exercise, after hard exercise or during a period of rest accompanied by high energy intake.



Yes it can – but it must not be used until your veterinary surgeon has seen the horse. This is because if the massaging effect has a stimulatory effect on the kidneys but kidney function is impaired either by the presence of myoglobin and/or constriction of muscles, then use of Niagara Equissage will make the situation worse and cause more distress and discomfort especially if the horse wants to pass urine but is unable to do so.

However once the vet has administered drugs to relieve pain and help to promote muscular relaxation, and is happy with regard to kidney function, then Niagara Equissage can be used to encourage further muscle relaxation – although on a low setting (No. 2-No.3) to as not to have an over-stimulatory effect before the body can cope.

Once blood tests are satisfactory, then normal usage can commence. Using Niagara Equissage will help to promote correct kidney function, work to eliminate any remaining excess lactic acid and promote repair to damaged muscle fibres and capillaries.



For equine rhabdomyolysis treatment, use the Back Pad for its 20 minute cycle but for just once a day. Using too often could over-stimulate kidney function and you do not want to put these already compromised organs under additional strain. The setting wants to be low to medium as a higher setting could cause too much activity within the body and encourage excess urination; treatment is aimed at restoring normal kidney function and muscular relaxation.

Niagara Equissage by its very design is a stimulatory tool so it is important in Rhabdomyolysis cases not to be tempted to try and speed up the healing process. Although just 20 minutes a day does not seem very much, the effects of a Niagara Equissage treatment continue in the body for several hours after the initial 20 minute cycle.

Once the horse is restored to health, then either a daily session can be maintained as part of your management programme or on alternate days to help reduce the risk of future Rhabdomyolysis occurrences.

Point to Note: Be sure that your feeding is in line with the work your horse is doing.

Niagara Equissage Benelux

Niagara Equissage USA Western

Western Future B.V.

Heuvel 18

5476KG Vorstenbosch

The Netherlands

Arthur & Anoeska van Osch

T: +31 6 50 20 47 01

T: +31 6 51 26 90 94

© Niagara Equissage Benelux