While dressage aficionados might already think that Valegro walks on water, new research emerging from Hartpury College, in Gloucester, U.K., has shown that walking in water could be helping to boost the champion’s performance.

With Olympic gold medal winner Charlotte Dujardin OBE’s multiple world record holder enjoying regular sessions in the “Aqua-Fit” water treadmill at Hartpury’s Equine Therapy Centre, a trio of researchers have produced a paper that evidences how this kind of therapy can influence a sport horse’s performance and rehabilitation.

The research provides new information about how veterinarians can use water treadmill exercise for the training and rehabilitation of sport horses.

In the study the researchers—Hartpury’s principal lecturer in equine therapy Kathryn Nankervis, BSc, MSc, CVPM; Pauline Finney, a masters student in equine science student; and the center’s consultant osteopath Liz Launder—examined on 14 horses from a range of equestrian sports. Their study was conducted in Hartpury’s Equine Therapy Centre using 3-D motion capture. The aim was to find out how water depth affects back movement in healthy horses.

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“Our study showed that walking in water has the effect of rounding (flexing) the lumbar spine, but as water depth increases, the thoracic spine becomes more extended or dipped,” Nankervis said. “This has implications for both the rehabilitation of horses with back injuries and the training of elite dressage horses. Dressage horses need to be able t