Hartpury contributes to new equine guidelines over use of water treadmills


Hartpury has contributed to new guidelines endorsed by the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) to highlight 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. 

The authors of the document include Dr Kathryn Nankervis, who leads equine research at Hartpury  the world’s largest equine educational establishment  where facilities include a water treadmill. 

Dr Nankervis, who has used a water treadmill for training and research purposes for more than 20 years, said: “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. 

“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.” 

It follows research, supported by the BEF, Petplan Charitable Trust and the Animal Health Trust, 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.  

Dr Rachel Murray, BEF World Class programme veterinarian and co-investigator in current water treadmill research, said: “Performed optimally, water treadmill 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 hind limb 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.” 

Equine research students at Hartpury University have access to a wide range of state-of-the-art equipment and laboratories to support their studies. 

The facilities within the Equine Therapy Centre and the Margaret Giffen Centre for Rider Performance enable biomechanical and physiological studies of both horse and rider. 

All research activity at Hartpury either directly or indirectly informs not only current industry practice but also the curriculum. 

Research is fully integrated within teaching, with staff research active in the areas in which they teach and many dissertations embedded in larger scale research projects.

Recent equine graduates from Hartpury, which offers a range of equine-related diplomas, undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, and PhDs, have embarked on careers with a number of major employers, including Cheltenham Racecourse, the Hong Kong Jockey Club and The Horse Trust. 

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