The UK’s governing body of horse sport British Equestrian has endorsed new guidelines on best practice in the use of water treadmills to train and rehabilitate horses.
The document Equine Water Treadmills – a guide for users provides recommendations about how to introduce horses to water treadmill exercise, what to look for when a horse is exercising on a water treadmill and suggestions as to how to incorporate it into a training or rehabilitation programme.
It follows research by the Equine Hydrotherapy Working Group comprising academics, veterinary surgeons and therapy centre managers from the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, the United States and China. The work was supported by British Equestrian (BEF), Petplan Charitable Trust and the Animal Health Trust.
“The guidelines provide a consensus in relation to best practice in the use of water treadmills, based on a combination of research studies and skilled user experience,” said Dr Kathryn Nankervis, who leads equine research at Hartpury, and has been using a water treadmill for more than 20 years.
“I’m very pleased to have contributed to the guidelines along with colleagues who all believe in sharing best practice based on evidence. We hope owners and hydrotherapy users will find them useful and horses will benefit from them.”
Dr Rachel Murray, BEF World Class programme veterinarian and co-investigator in current water treadmill research said that performed optimally, such exercise has many potential benefits when integrated into a training or rehabilitation programme, including an increase in range of movement of lower limbs, increased lumbar flexion, decreased impact shock, improved posture, core and hindlimb muscle development and an opportunity to cross-train in a controlled environment.
“The purpose of the water treadmills guidance document is to help users achieve these benefits for their horses, whether they are using a water treadmill for training or to support a rehabilitation programme,” Murray said.