Water treadmill workouts are gaining in popularity, especially for rehabilitating injuries. Compared with swimming pool exercises, water treadmill therapy allows the horse to maintain correct posture and gives a handler the ability to control the speed, incline, water height, and resistance of the workout.

“Although water treadmills are becoming very popular, not a lot of research has been carried out into their effects on workload and the horse,” said Kelly Yarnell, PhD, a senior lecturer at Nottingham Trent University, in England.

Previous research has examined water height and its effects on a horse’s movement, but additional information was needed to enable therapists to design effective rehabilitation and training programs that utilize the underwater treadmill.

“If we can better understand the changes in workload associated with increasing water height whilst using a water treadmill, then we can design better rehabilitation and training regimes that are suited to the individual horse,” Yarnell said.

She explained that a horse’s skin temperature directly reflects the underlying circulation and metabolism; however, traditional methods of monitoring skin temperature changes present challenges, Yarnell said: “Usually we measure muscle activity by electrocardiogram, which requires attachment of electrodes with wires. This can prove difficult in an aquatic environment.”

Under Yarnell’s supervision, BSc candidate Jenny Flemings investigated the possibility of using an infra