Equine Therapy Centre opens to restore horse fitness after injury

Published: 19 November 2009 at 14:00

New facility opens to help students learn more about horses while horses receive state-of-the-art therapeutic treatment.

Olympic bronze medallist Sharon Hunt and her horse Tankers Town have helped with the official opening of a new Equine Therapy Centre in Cambridge. Sharon performed the official ribbon cutting while Tankers Town demonstrated the benefits of some of the new equipment.

Anglia Ruskin University and the College of West Anglia have opened the Equine Therapy Centre in Cambridge as part of the recent introduction of a new Equine Studies Degree being delivered jointly by the two higher education institutions.

The new centre will help to reduce the pain and inflammation suffered by horses after injury, and restore their overall fitness. Tackling injuries is one of the highest priorities of horse owners, whether it is for a high performance horse or a beloved hacking mount. Equine rehabilitation is a recurring theme within the modules of the new Equine Studies degree programme and the unit that will directly support this study is nearing completion on the Cambridge campus of the College of West Anglia. It houses a wide range of equipment delivering a number of therapeutic modalities.

Olympic bronze medallist Sharon Hunt said:

"The College of West Anglia and Anglia Ruskin University are developing a fantastic new facility which is badly needed in this area. I have to travel miles to be able to use this type of equipment which I would use routinely to keep my event horses in top condition."

"The equine students will not simply observe the equipment in action, but graduate with a comprehensive understanding of and expertise in operating the state-of-the-art equipment in the unit’,

says Professor Michael Cole, the Head of the Department of Life Sciences at Anglia Ruskin University.

Dr Marian Bond, the Curriculum Development Officer who led the design work on the degree, added:

"Our research has shown that potential employers value this knowledge and graduates from the Equine Studies degree will therefore enjoy a competitive edge as they seek employment in the equine job market."

"Development of the building to house the equipment was carefully considered from the perspective of the comfort and safety of both the horse ‘patients’ and their handlers.  Dr Charlotte Nevison and Dr Mark Kennedy from Anglia Ruskin University gave us the benefit of their experience and knowledge to ensure that sight lines, entry and exit points and shadows and lighting were all appropriate to the sensibilities of the visiting horses" said Alison Barber, the College of West Anglia’s Cambridge Campus Director. 

Explaining more about the centre, Dr Nevison continued:

"The layout of the unit has been designed with a consideration for the visual perspectives of a horse, reflecting recent research in this area. By considering what a horse can see, and what motivates it to move forward without undue pressure from handlers, we hope to make a visit to the suite a stress free and safe experience for both horse and handlers."

The final selection of the equipment for the Equine Therapy Unit was made only after extensive investigations.  Dr Bond, who is a trained physiotherapist, speaks directly about the need for the centre and some of the cutting-edge facilities.

"Horses are athletes, and, as such are exposed to many of the same strains and injuries that plague human athletes, and respond to therapies commonly applied to human patients",

said Dr Bond. 

"Hydrotherapy has a long history as a successful treatment for injury and inflammation, and so we selected a leading technology Equine Spa for the unit’"

In addition, the provision of an Aqua Treadmill will allow students to gain expertise in the operation of this sophisticated piece of equipment. With it they will learn the techniques to re-educate gait, balance and proprioception, improve strength, flexibility and stamina and restore a normal range of movement in a range of horses.

Olympic bronze medallist Sharon Hunt said:

"The College of West Anglia and Anglia Ruskin University are developing a fantastic new facility which is badly needed in this area. I have to travel miles to be able to use this type of equipment which I would use routinely to keep my event horses in top condition."

The inclusion of a Combi+System rug by Activo-Med among the purchased equipment recognises the need for preventative as well as curative work.

"The combination of having both pulsed electromagnetic and the massage over the horses’ entire body makes a huge difference. I find the horses much looser and more relaxed in their muscles straight away",

reports Peter Storr, International Dressage Rider.

Standing horses in running cold streams has historically been recognised as beneficial for soreness after exercise, and this therapy has found a state of the art interpretation in the Therapy Unit.  

"Cold hosing and the application of ice packs in the early stages of injury have been shown to be of significant value to the healing process’,

said Alison Barber, an experienced competitor and active trainer of competitors in all three main equine disciplines.

"Routinely applying cold therapy after schooling, a cross country run or a show is a relatively inexpensive method of maintaining the fitness of an equine athlete. For this reason, the MacKinnon Ice Horse™ Equine Cold Therapy equipment will be another of the modalities on offer in the two dedicated treatment stables that are an integral part of the new Therapy Centre."

she continued.

In contrast, heat therapy will be supplied by the Lambda Pro Solarium, which will be mounted within the main therapy area.

While the Centre has been developed primarily for the education of the equine students, and their clients will be mainly yard horses rather than injured equine athletes, there is a vision for the Centre beyond its institutional role.

"In time, it is hoped that the Centre can be opened for squad training and performance testing for regional or national squads interested in maximising their performance in international competitions,"

said Alison.

"We are also keen to establish relationships with local vets to enable the centre to be used for post surgical, after injury and return to training care. We may also be able to accommodate local equine therapy specialists and equine physiotherapists to enable them to offer clinics to promote and assist with the recovery of their clients’ horses."

"All of these diverse activities will have an educational benefit for the students, enabling them to observe a variety of horses with a wider range of injuries and ailments using the equipment," concluded Dr Bond.