More research needed into water treadmill use by horses, says review team



More research is needed into the biomechanical response of horses to water treadmill exercise, a review team has found.

Researchers in Britain set out to evaluate what is currently known about water treadmill exercise for horses, drawing on what is known from human and canine investigations.

Water treadmills are popular for rehabilitation and training in humans, dogs and horses, with equine versions increasingly being found in research and therapy centres and private competition yards, they noted.

“However the programmes incorporating water treadmill exercise for training and rehabilitation of horses are mainly based on anecdotal evidence due to the lack of scientific evidence available.”

Carolyne Tranquille, Kathryn Nankervis, Vicki Walker, Jack Tacey and Rachel Murray, writing in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, said current scientific literature showed wide variation in water treadmill protocols.

Studies have shown that water depth, temperature and speed have a significant effect on physiological responses in humans, they noted.

“The physiological studies in horses show many similarities to human responses with much evidence demonstrating that water treadmill exercise is an aerobic form of exercise which does not appear to induce improvement in aerobic capacity when used within training programmes.

“Equine and canine studies have shown that water depth can have a significant effect on the biomechanical responses to water treadmill exercise but little is known about the effect of different speeds at the various water depths.”

The biomechanical response of horses to water treadmill exercise required more research, they said.

Key areas identified for future research included how combinations of water depth and speed altered equine biomechanics compared to overland exercise, determination of long-term benefits of water treadmill exercise, and how to use water treadmills for rehabilitation for horses with specific injury.

Tranquille, Walker, Tacey and Murray are affiliated with the Centre for Equine Studies at the Animal Health Trust; Nankervis is with the Performance in Equestrian Sport Group at Hartpury University.

Their review is entitled “Current knowledge of equine water treadmill exercise: what can we learn from human and canine studies?”

Current knowledge of equine water treadmill exercise: what can we learn from human and canine studies?
Carolyne A. Tranquille, Kathryn J. Nankervis, Vicki A. Walker, Jack B. Tacey, Rachel C. Murray.

The abstract of the review can be read here

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