Cold hosing and hand walking will always have an important role in equine rehabilitation. Horsemen have used icing, bandaging and poulticing to treat injuries for hundreds of years because they are the methods that work. Annadale Equine knows this and, by infusing tried and true methods with new technology, the rehabilitation facility is stepping to the forefront of equine therapy and fitness healing.
When Bert McGill was a professional team roper on the rodeo circuit, his livelihood was directly intertwined with his horses’ soundness and fitness. Nothing underlines the importance of a sound horse more than that, and if one of his horses were injured, Bert knew it was absolutely critical to carefully monitor each step of the healing process as he brought them back to competition shape.
It was the lack (at the time) of a cutting edge rehabilitation facility in Central California that drove him to found the Annadale Equine Center in his hometown of Sanger after his retirement from the rodeo circuit.
The nucleus of the facility, located outside of Fresno, is the unique Aqua Pacer, a treadmill that utilizes water therapy. Individually, treadmill work and swimming are valuable fitness tools, but the Aqua Pacer is the first machine to combine the two for increased efficiency. The treadmill is surrounded by a tank that can be filled with water at varying levels, creating water resistance as the horse walks. Filling the tank creates buoyancy that is extremely valuable for healing leg injuries; when the horse is 50 percent buoyant, the weight and concussion it puts on that injured leg is reduced by half.
“We are able to build fitness and test the strength of healed injuries in a very controlled environment, an environment that is safe for the horses and more effective than any other technology out there,” explains Bert.
Bert and his wife Megan completed the facility one year ago, and during that short time they’ve seen horses of virtually every discipline make use of their program. The 38-stall barn features stalls with permeable matted floors, attractive mahogany fronts by Classic Equine, individual lighting in each stall, and a managed day to day program that was designed for efficiency and safety. Outside each stall is an individual locker that holds all supplements or equipment that pertains to each horse, eliminating room for error in feeding or sharing supplies. Bert makes himself the primary point of contact for all clients, and maintains hands-on presence in each horse’s daily routine. He is supported by a carefully selected staff of knowledgeable and caring horsemen who understand the importance of the rehab process and are skilled in reading each horse’s body language and comfort level.
Bert points to a 9-year-old Western Pleasure mare as an example of the benefits of the Aqua Pacer. The mare came to Annadale after an outbreak of pigeon fever caused an infection that spread all the way to her hind leg. The leg swelled to four times its regular size, and the mare avoided bearing full weight on it. Concerns of laminitis in the healthy leg arose, but with a combined program of twice daily Aqua Pacer and poulticing, Bert and his consulting vets saw an immediate decrease in the swelling, and the mare became a lot more comfortable bearing weight on the leg, which alleviated the chance that laminitis would develop.
“We work hand in hand with veterinarians to put together a program with each individual horse,” says Bert. “We adjust the workout treatments carefully, and address the horse’s care all the way down to feed, etc. We work as a team with the horse owner, the home vet, trainer and farrier, as well as our own consulting vets.”
Annadale Equine Center relies on the frequent consultations of Danny Dutton, DVM, who acts as the main consulting veterinarian on staff. Dr. Dutton was associate veterinarian of Pacific Crest Equine Practice in Exeter before relocating to New Mexico last year. “Our chief concern is thoroughly discussing the injury, the best treatment, expectations for recovery and details of the rehab regimen,” says Dutton. “I think it’s going to be a lot more important in the next few years, especially among racehorses, to send horses to rehab facilities such as these. There are only a handful of really well managed and developed rehab facilities in the state, and Annadale is at the front of that group.”
Bert stresses that the benefits of the Aqua Pacer, and the program at Annadale, go far beyond treating injuries. He accepts many horses that are uninjured and simply need to build their fitness back after time off. The Aqua Pacer is invaluable for breeding stallions that are not ridden but need to become more fit before the start of breeding season. Horses that come back after a winter off benefit from the resistance of the Aqua Pacer, which builds muscle and cardio while “saving” legs from the concussion they would take on with regular fitness work. “You cannot get a horse as fit as I’m going to get him inside this treadmill,” says Bert. “Whether your horse is lame or sound, there’s a reason to come here. Our program lowers the chance of re-injury and creates a stronger, more competitive horse for every discipline.”
Visit Annadale Equine Center’s website for more information: www.annadaleequinecenter.com, or call 559-876-3700.