Uplifting events for horses

A new collaborative invention from a multidisciplinary research team at the University of Saskatchewan promises new hope for injured horses

A research team from the University of Saskatchewan is hoping to improve the outcome for horses suffering from fractures or other musculoskeletal problems.

Hundreds of horses are fatally injured and euthanized every year in North America due to racetrack injuries. But even horses that are used for pleasure riding can break a leg.

After a horse undergoes surgery to fix a fracture, it’s normally confined to a stall and given medication to alleviate the pain. However, due to a horse’s heavy weight and its strong flight response, recovery from musculoskeletal problems is uncertain.

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A multidisciplinary research team at the University of Saskatchewan is hoping to change that, by partnering with RMD Engineering, a local firm, to design and build a robotic lift system, a University of Saskatchewan release says. The lift will help rehabilitate horses suffering from acute injuries and other musculoskeletal problems by providing mobility, weight distribution and support.

The team’s leader is Dr. Julia Montgomery, a large-animal internal medicine specialist at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine and the team includes engineering professors, an equine biomechanics specialist and a radiologist.

The lift can reduce and redistribute the weight the horse is carrying, Montgomery said. The system allows the animal to be mobile with its weight partially or fully supported by the lift.

“If we want to, we can allow the horse to move around so we don’t have these issues with muscle wasting,” says Montgomery. She adds that this function of the lift will also allow for more controlled rehabilitation of horses.

RMD Engineering has been involved with many other veterinary-related innovations at the university revolving around large-animal handling, including a “bovine tilt table.”

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