A new purpose-built therapy swimming pool for horses is a world first and will allow vets and researchers to study muscle and tendon problems and develop proven methods of treatment.
The €1.7million Kinesia centre in Normandy has a U-shaped 40-metre pool with sloped entries to let horses enter and swim in the 3m water.
Transparent sides allow movements to be monitored and videoed. Studies include physical injury to muscles, tendons and ligaments, as well as general overall fitness. There is an underwater moving walkway and also a solarium where the horses can warm up after being in the pool.
Aqua-therapy improves horses’ health and wellbeing in the same way as humans, but until now there has been no scientific evidence about how it works and how much of what therapies to use.
Research institution Ecole Nationale Vétérinaire d’Alfort researchers and students will use the centre at Goustranville, Calvados, to establish scientifically proven protocols that say precisely what therapies can be used to treat what kinds of problems.
The centre took a year to build and was planned for nearly a decade as its research is important in sporting and racing horses, where trainers rely on non-medical treatments to maintain and boost performance so as not to fall foul of doping regulations.
It will also help private animals referred to the veterinary school’s hospital. The centre’s director Alexia Lemoine said a limping Shetland pony had been one of the first to be treated.
“We want to find how swimming helps, which muscles and tendons are used and in what way, so vets can write precise prescriptions about exactly what is beneficial, not just for each animal but for each injury or illness.
“There is no other facility like this anywhere else in the world,” she said.