Treadmill Exercise for Horses: Is It Safe?By Kentucky Equine Research Staff · September 21, 2011
Equine treadmills may be found in research laboratories, veterinary hospitals, and rehabilitation clinics as an aid for horses recovering from injuries, and some training barns where they are used in conditioning regimens. Because using an equine treadmill is a novel concept for most people, as well as a new experience for many of the horses themselves, the question of safety often arises. According to figures appearing in Equine Veterinary Journal, treadmill exercise is not a significant source of serious injury to horses.
Reporting on a study conducted in Australia, head researcher Samantha Franklin, B.V.Sc., concluded that, in general, treadmill exercise was well tolerated and safe. After examining 2,305 records from 2,258 horses working on high-speed equine treadmills at nine locations in three countries, the study found an injury rate of 5.4%, or about what would be expected during average strenuous competition. Fewer than 1% of injuries were classified as serious.
Though most treadmill exercise carries very little risk of injury, guidelines for use suggest that safe operation depends on trained personnel, regular maintenance of all equipment, and a protocol to familiarize horses with the apparatus before testing or training is attempted. Horses should always be closely supervised, especially in early sessions as they become accustomed to the moving belt. Treadmills should be designed and built specifically for use with horses and should be equipped with nonslip footing.