Tuesday, 20 October 2020

Work Placement at Moulton College Equestrian Centre - Eve Herne


My name is Eve Herne and I’m currently completing a six month work placement at Moulton College Equestrian Centre, mostly in the Equine Therapy Centre. This work placement is part of the practical ‘sandwich year’ of my BSc (hons) Veterinary Physiotherapy degree I am doing at Harper Adams University.

I have already completed two years of my degree before coming to Moulton which gives me an amazing opportunity to put my theoretical knowledge into practice.

I was lucky enough to be able to start my placement in July despite COVID-19 which meant I was straight in helping with yard duties looking after the college horses as well as assisting in the Equine Therapy Centre.

I have learnt masses about horse locomotion, rehabilitation and the benefits of hydrotherapy for very different types of horses. Clients in the Equine Therapy Centre range from Shetland ponies to huge event horses and this variety has helped me to understand how equine anatomy and exercise can work hand in hand to create a fitter, healthier and happier horse all round no matter what their level of ridden work.

Another important aspect of the therapy sessions is ensuring both horse and owner have a nice time. Communication is key and the staff at Moulton College are amazing at reassuring the horses and keeping the owners completely up to date on how the horse is looking and working during their session as well as providing recommendations of a tailored exercise plan so the therapy sessions are as beneficial as possible.

The aqua-treadmill is the perfect exercise for almost all horses as they have to maintain a constant rhythm, balance and engage their core. The tactile stimulation of the water on the horse’s coronet band forces them to pick their legs up and over the water creating a rounded shape and building muscle along the top line and in the hind end.

Swimming in the pool is excellent fitness work especially for horses that cannot do canter work over ground due to being unable to handle concussive forces on their legs. The equine cold salt water spa is used mostly for alleviating inflammation in the immediate stages after an injury. I have been lucky enough to watch and assist with horses using all of these different types of therapies and learnt the best way to handle the horses especially if it is their first ‘taster’ session.

As well as the therapy sessions I have been able to help out with daily horse care for the college horses including feeding, poo picking, yard maintenance and I was lucky enough to be able to ride some of the lovely college horses in order to bring them back into work for the students to ride in September.

My aims for this placement are to improve my horse handling skills, improve my interpersonal communication skills and to further my understanding of equine anatomy, locomotion and rehabilitation as well as horse management.


Sunday, 30 August 2020

Lottie - Case Study

Irish Sports Horse
Dressage/ Allrounder
OWNER: Ruth Ofield

Ruth bought Lottie five years ago from a local riding school after having regular lessons together. The pair competed in a few unaffiliated dressage competitions where they started to show some promising results. The following year Ruth decided to affiliate to British Dressage, quickly going up through the levels and regularly gaining fantastic scores of over 70%. Lottie is actually a brilliant allrounder as she also a loves to jump, enjoys a hack and has proved bold on the hunting field. Ruth planned on competing Lottie at medium level British Dressage in the 2020 season.

Ruth decided to bring Lottie to Moulton Equine Therapy Centre in March 2020. With the lambing season ahead and a busy work schedule Ruth did not think she would be able to maintain Lottie’s fitness regime for the coming competition season. Lottie had been swimming and used an aqua treadmill before so there was no doubt that she would cope well with the programme that we designed for her.


Lottie stayed at the Equine Therapy Centre for two weeks. Her comprehensive programme consisted of working in deep water on the aqua treadmill to increase hind limb engagement and build core strength and condition along with a tailored swimming programme to increase her cardiovascular fitness. At the weekends, Ruth took advantage of our off road hacking so Lottie had a very varied and pretty intense work programme during her stay.

Lottie on the aqua treadmill -          

Lottie swimming -                          





Whilst we appreciate that photographic evidence can be very subjective to lots of factors, we do think these photos of Lottie show an increase in muscle tone particularly over the hind quarters                    

This year has been very disappointing for most in the equestrian industry and is particularly frustrating for Ruth as an owner that was so committed to her horse’s development and wellbeing that her extra effort in sending her horse to a centre such as ours to kickstart her season essentially ended with Lottie being turned away while the county was in lockdown

Hopefully with restrictions eased, Ruth will now be able to get back on track with Lottie’s training at home and will manage an outing by the end of the year.  

Thursday, 16 April 2020

Moulton Equine Therapy Centre – Behind the scenes Pt. 2 Hoovering the pool

Hoovering is a standard maintenance procedure for any swimming pool.

Our equestrian swimming lane pool needs hoovering at least once a week due to debris accumulating on the bottom from horses defecating in the pool as well as from horses utilising the treadmill, since the treadmill water is drained into the pool and replaced with clean filtered water after each use.

The hoovering process can be quite labour intensive hence one of the reasons we try to ensure horses are as clean as possible before they use the aqua-treadmill and why we try to catch all droppings that the horse does during a session.  Ideally horses would not defecate whilst they are swimming but that is impossible to control!

The pool water is constantly pumped under pressure through the skimmers and sumps to sand filters in the plant room. The three skimmers remove dirt and debris that is floating on the surface of the water such as hair and bedding before circulating the surface water to the filters in the plant room.  Horse excrement, mud and dirt particles from the horses are heavier than the water so ultimately sink to the bottom of the pool.  The sumps are located at the bottom of the pool and draw in any debris that sinks close to them and sends this debris along with a constant supply of pool water to the sand filters in the plant room for cleaning.  Debris that does not sink close enough to the suction of a sump will be deposited on the bottom of the pool.   We add a flocculent to the pool water which aids in sticking these small particles together to make them into larger particles which are then easier for the sand filters to catch and filter out, and also make it easier to see piles of debris that has accumulated on the bottom of the pool.

When horses are being swum regularly they churn up the water and prevent debris from settling on the bottom of the pool.  This can aid in keeping the water clean as the dirty debris laden water is more likely to be forced through the skimmers and sumps to the filters for cleaning rather than being able to settle on the bottom of the pool.  This can however, make the pool water appear dirty as the dirt is constantly floated in the water rather than having time to settle to the bottom. Ideally, when horse have defecated frequently while swimming and the water is dirty, it is best to leave some time for this debris to sink so that it can be hoovered off the bottom effectively. 

To carry out the cleaning process, the hoover hose is connected to one of the skimmer inlets; the remaining two skimmers and the sumps are turned off so that all the suction is coming through just the one skimmer and therefore water is drawn into the hoover.  The hoover head is then manually rolled along the bottom of the pool and up the ramps via a very long pole, so luckily for us there is no need for scuba diving equipment! Hoovering takes approximately an hour and a half but may take longer depending on just how much debris has settled on the bottom.

After hoovering, the strainer basket in the plant room may contain a lot of debris and become full which will then need emptying. No matter how clean the horses are that use the equipment we will often find stones and bedding in this strainer basket. The filters will also gain pressure as the smaller particles become trapped in the filters, therefore a backwash cycle will need to be completed to ensure all debris has been evacuated from the filter and the filters can efficiently continue to clean the water. 

There is nothing more satisfying than a freshly hoovered pool when the ramps and pool floor all look clean and sparkling!

Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Moulton Equine Therapy Centre – Behind the scenes Pt. 1 Water testing

We take water quality at the equine therapy centre very seriously. The water in the swimming pool is tested and chemically balanced every day, the readings are then recorded in a log book. It is very important that the readings are accurate as small changes in a reading can mean an actual large change in the pool water quality.

Why do we test the water?
It is important to test the water in the pool to ensure the pH and chlorine levels remain balanced. Chlorine is a disinfectant and is added to the water to kill microbial pathogens. A correct disinfectant level is crucial to maintain biosecurity.

What do we test?
We take three separate tests for the chlorine levels; the free, total and combined chlorine.  It is imperative to take the pH reading too as the chlorine is most effective at a specific level of pH. We use a photometer to take these readings. The photometer gives the reading by passing light through a coloured 10ml sample of water.

Any dirt that comes off of the horses when they are using the equipment has a tendency to raise the pH to be more alkaline. Chlorine is more effective between the range of 7.2 – 7.4, therefore if the photometer gave a reading of above 7.4, acid will be added to the pool to reduce the pH level, if the pH was too low, alkaline would need to be added to increase the pH.

Free chlorine is what attacks the pollutants in the water.  When the free chlorine combines with the pollutants it becomes combined chlorine.  High levels of combined chlorine are bad and are what give off noxious gases and can cause skin irritations.

To get the combined chlorine reading we test for the free and total chlorine and use this simple sum: Total Chlorine – Free Chlorine = Combined Chlorine

Free chlorine should outnumber Combined Chlorine at a ratio of 2:1, so that there is always enough free chlorine ready to attack any pollutants that may be introduced into the water.   If the combined chlorine levels read more than the free chlorine levels this means we will need to add more chlorine in the pool to re-balance the levels. As these chemicals can be dangerous in high concentrations, we always wear a gas mask, gloves and an apron when adding them to the pool.

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Work placement at Moulton College Equestrian Centre - Larissa Tilley

I started my work placement at Moulton College Equestrian Centre in January this year as part of my undergraduate degree in veterinary physio therapy at Harper Adams University. I am currently in my third year and have really enjoyed my time at university learning a combination of both the theory and practical aspects of veterinary physiotherapy.

As part of my four year degree I am required to undertake a 44 week work placement with both horses and dogs to give me the opportunity to develop new skills working within the industry alongside my academic study. Having already completed my canine placement, I am now at Moulton College Equestrian Centre for 22 weeks of equine experience primarily working in the equine therapy centre.

My first few weeks here has been great and I have already seen so much. I have been able to shadow in the equine therapy centre and have observed lots of different horses on the aqua- treadmill from a miniature Shetland pony to showjumpers and eventers. I have learnt about the different modes of hydrotherapy, how to prepare a horse for exercise on the aqua-treadmill and learnt about all the maintenance required to keep the therapy centre up and running.

I have helped with the care of the therapy inpatients, learning about the daily routine and helping with general yard duties. I have also met the resident college horses and am looking forward to learning more about the college yard.

I am excited for the rest of my time here. I am looking forward to seeing the pool and spa in use and meeting new horses and clients along with getting more hands on experience to help me to develop new skills to help me with my degree. 

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Black Pirate Rehabilitation Case Study

Black Pirate
National Hunt

OWNER: Syndicate
TRAINER: James Ewart
Black Pirate has had an impressive career winning a point to point as a four year old and running in three competitive Bumpers winning at Wetherby and Ayr in 2018.
He then returned to Ayr for the Scottish Champion Bumper where he came second only beaten by 3.5 lengths. Following a setback, Black Pirate stayed at the Equine Therapy Centre for three months at the end of 2018 where he followed a programme designed by Dr Jessica York. Pirate’s hydrotherapy programme consisted of both swimming and Aqua-Treadmill exercise to enable him to increase his cardiovascular fitness and stamina along with improving his core strength and muscle tone. After three months rehabilitative exercise with us, Pirate was looking amazing and returned home to start his work back under saddle. Unfortunately when Pirate returned home in November he had a knock in the field and the decision was made for him to have some time off to fully recover.

Pirate Returned to us in June 2019 for another six week stay with the hope that we would be able to get him to a level of strength and fitness for him to be able to return to full work and with the aim for him to start his hurdling career in the coming season.

Swimming is a great fittening tool as it is a cardiovascular workout.  So it is important that horses that have been out of work are introduced to swimming gradually. As Pirate had not been in work for such a long time it was important to create a programme to allow him to slowly build up his fitness and strength. Pirate was first worked on the aqua-treadmill and over the first couple of weeks we gradually increased the length of his sessions and the depth of water, eventually adding tack and allowing a few minutes of trot to make sure that we were working on developing his core strength and targeting specific muscle groups.

Clearly Pirate remembered his previous stay as he seemed very happy to be with us again by being relaxed in his stable, he settled in to his paddock and loaded straight away on to the aqua-treadmill. After a few weeks Pirate was ready to start swimming. 

Again, Pirate had remembered his previous swimming experience with us and dove straight into the pool with no hesitation!  As with the aqua-treadmill exercise, it was important to build him up gradually. When horses swim with us, we closely monitor their heart rates as an indicator of fitness by recording their heart rate at rest and then checking it regularly throughout the swim session. This helps us to observe progression and adjust their training programmes accordingly.

Pirate has an exceptionally relaxed temperament and was incredibly laid back with us in the Therapy Centre, subsequently his resting heart rate was extremely low. We kept him on the same programme for 5 days in order to have a direct comparison of his heart rates week on week, this enabled us to assess how much to increase his programme. Pirate was a fantastic swimmer and maintained a very straight position in the pool indicating that his previous injury had no adverse effects on his way of going, and so he was able to develop his cardiovascular fitness without any detriment to his body.

By the end of Pirate’s stay his fitness had reached a level that he was completing 50 lengths of the pool. This incorporated straight warm up lengths, back to back lengths and sprint lengths. We also utilised the jets within the pool, to intensify the work-out by creating a current that the he had to swim against.

Pirate was also working on the aqua-treadmill with a roller and bungee for 45 minutes. This incorporated trotting for up to 12 minutes in shallower water and deep water walking for 10 minutes.

Pirate’s recovery rate when swimming was exceptionally quick; quicker than most fit event horses that we train. This indicated that by the end of his stay he was definitely fit enough to go home and start some faster work over ground under saddle His recovery rate was also likely related to his relaxed demeanour and possibly also why he had previously been so successful as a racehorse. Pirate’s work on the aqua-treadmill kept him strong in his core and over his back. Have a look at these before and after pictures, we think he’s looking brilliant.

Pirate on the day of his arrival.

Pirate six weeks later.

Pirate was a lovely horse to have on the Therapy Yard.  He was a real pleasure to work with and to just have around.  We enjoyed taking care of him and are really looking forward to following his Hurdling career and wish him and his team every success.  Hopefully we will see him again one day!

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Tom - Kissing Spine Rehabilitation Case Study

Connemara cross
Pony Club/ Allrounder

Tom: Interspinous Ligament Desmotomy

Tom was diagnosed with kissing spine after diagnostic tests were carried out when Tom’s behaviour started to deteriorate. It was found that Tom had impingement of three of the dorsal-spinous processes in the thoracic region and the decision was made for him to undergo interspinous ligament desmotomy surgery.

Tom initially started his treatment at home with two weeks box rest and half an hour walking in-hand twice daily. Tom then had his stitches taken out and arrived at Moulton Therapy Centre in March 2019 where we met him for the first time and were given the lowdown on his wound and how he had recovered so far.  He also had his very first session walking on the aqua-treadmill just for ten minutes, and he took to it really well.

Tom continued to walk on the aqua treadmill for a few days a week following a programme designed by our Hydrotherapist Dr Jessica York where the duration and water depth were gradually increased as Tom’s strength and stamina improved.  Two weeks into Tom’s rehabilitation programme a bridle and roller was introduced; there was clearly no negative association to wearing tack on the aqua-treadmill or on the lunge, therefore to create a soft and elastic contact a bungee was added encouraging him to work long and low and help build up the correct muscles. Tom was walked in large circles over poles on the lunge every day and small paddock turnout was also introduced for limited periods of time.

Six weeks post-surgery Tom started trotting on the aqua-treadmill for a few minutes in a low depth of water, which was built up over the next week to a total of ten minutes. It was clear that Tom was stronger and more balanced and took it all in his stride; he was forward and relaxed and clearly enjoyed his work.

The use of the aqua-treadmill has been very beneficial in Tom’s rehabilitation as it has allowed Tom to work symmetrically under supervised and controlled conditions. It effectively works as a full body workout and improves suppleness through the back. As the water is made deeper, stride length is increased and stride frequency is decreased therefore allowing a greater range of motion enabling muscle tone and core strength to be improved.

After a four week stay at Moulton Therapy Centre Tom returned to his owner to continue his rehabilitation programme, he settled back in at home immediately and was assessed by his Vet who was happy with his progress and how well the wound site had healed. Tom can now resume work on the lunge walking and trotting over raised poles, and a saddle can now be introduced and work under saddle can begin.  He will also look forward to enjoying full day’s turnout. We look forward to hearing about Tom’s progress and are excited for his future!