Written by: Margaret Freeman
Time-saving fitness tool or therapeutic aid, treadmills in whatever form, are as valuable to horses as they are to humans.
Treadmills for horses are becoming standard equipment at horse farms nowadays and for a variety of reasons. They reduce the need for labor and time-intensive hand-walking in much the same way as a hot-walker, but with added advantages. They can be used for aerobic workouts, rehabilitation, muscle building and diagnostics – and they do so in very limited space. One big advantage of a treadmill over a hot walker is that the horse isn’t tied and thus can stretch his head and neck and use his top line efficiently.
With today’s treadmills you can control the speed and the incline and set a variety of programs to suit any horse’s exercise plan. Treadmills can be used under cover in any kind of weather or with water to increase rehabilitation and conditioning benefits.
While they come in a variety of sizes and weights, treadmills usually run from 4,500 to 10,000 pounds. A fairly standard size is 20ft long by 6ft wide, with a 4ft wide tread. Some come with a narrower tread, which can keep the horse walking in a straighter line. The linear space required is about 35ft for the horse to comfortably walk on and off; less if it’s a one-door model. Some treadmills can be installed under a roof as low as 10ft or sunk below ground.
Treadmills generally start at around $30,000, or $60,000 for a hydro enhanced version, but figure in all the extras and you can count on double or triple those amounts. Despite the weight, treadmills are relatively portable – some owners transport them back and forth on the truck for seasonal trips to Florida and California.
If you are looking for a machine that will simply take the labor out of hand-walking, then a hot walker is more cost-efficient but takes up considerably more space.
BEFORE YOU GO SHOPPING
Expect to start with about $30,000 in your pocket for a two-ramp, walking model with an incline. Some companies provide financing or even leases. You need to determine the size of model you want based on the space you have to house it. Do you need to build a permanent installation? Will it be indoors or outdoors? Information is fairly easy to access online, but you still need to talk to the manufactures to see if the various features they have will meet your needs.
Determine the construction materials, safety features and options you want and whether you need the unit to be high-speed and or weatherproof. Where do you need the controls to be located? Do you want remote controls? Digital controls? Inquire about ease of maintenance. Be sure to ask about a warranty and take into consideration installation costs and the location of the company for added-on shipping expenses.
HorseGym offers two walking models (S1 with back entry only, no incline and S3 with 9 computer controlled programs, adjustable speeds up to 8mph and inclines from 0-10 degrees; height adjustable electric eye; quick release tail bar. There are four higher speed models with shatterproof macralon panes; many varied programs, safety features and options. Inclines up to 10_. T1 Isi is for smaller horses, T2 Ergo with larger running surface and speed to 15mph; T3 Trotter has speeds up to 21mph, time indicator and meter-per-minute display and 36 training options. The T4 is the latest addition to the line with same features as T3 but with speeds up to 28 mph. Models with inclines start at $30,600. T4 is $57,250. Roof frame and panels and attachable, height-adjustable solarium with hot air fans are optional extras. All HorseGym treadmills come with two year warranty.
FullStride Treadmills from Classic Equine come with five customizable, pre-programmed exercise routines and can accommodate automated individual daily programs for up to 30 horses, say the manufacturers. Clear polycarbonate side panels are impact resistant; laser sensor and electronic brake safety features; front/back ramps; remote controls; wide screen touch panel. Variable speed up to 8 mph; incline up to 10_. Weight: 4,300lbs. Price: $30,000. Two year limited warranty.
Classic Equine Equipment
The Athens Treadmill by Alpha AG was originally designed by the Amish to generate energy for machinery and is still used for that purpose, although it can also provide exercise at walking speeds. It has some wood components and is priced considerably lower than the all-metal units with digital operations. Variable speed and incline; wood sides. Prices start around $5,000.
Walk and trot models are available from Vitafloor with speeds from 6 to 15 mph. Front/back ramps, water and dust-proof motor, galvanized components for indoor or outdoor use, are all standard. The roller treadmill boasts brake electronics and infrared light safety sensors with prices starting at $26,000. Inclines to 6_. Weight 3703lbs to 3968lbs (for trot version).
EquiGym specializes in high-speed models for aerobic, anaerobic and strength training; intended primarily for race horses and for diagnostic uses involving high-speed gaits. Three-D drawings showing treadmill in relation to surrounding area comes at no extra charge. Can be installed in a pit. Variable speeds from 3 mph to 60 mph. Incline up to 10_. Weight 9,500 lbs. Price: $110,000. Pit surround for ground insulation: $3,800. Dual monitor video with LED screen optional extra. Standard three phase requires a 125 amp service.
Four models, with variable speeds up to 16mph, including a rollerless one for miniature horses. Front ramps optional; 32in tread; adjustable elevation to 10_. Prices range from $11,500 for mini-sport to $28,000 for high-speed Easystrider.
Freedom Horse Products
Ash Grove MO
Water is being combined with the treadmill concept to aid in the therapeutic healing, strengthening, conditioning, and training of all types of horses. Prices start at around $60,000 for an above-ground hydro unit, but there are considerable other costs, including installation. Models can provide water depths from ankle to back and control temperatures from ice-cold to warm. Above-ground units need time to fill and drain, while a below-ground unit can have a constant water level and thus work horses every half hour.
The buoyancy of a deep-water system is another bonus as the weight of the horse on his legs is reduced by half. Submerged treadmill systems are a high tech engineering combination of treadmill, whirlpool, and swimming pool.
If you don’t want to pay to install your own unit, you may be able to find a fee-basis facility near you.
There are three above ground models available from HorseGym, starting at $95,000. One or two doors, speeds up to 10 mph, water height up to 4ft. The self-cleaning filter system removes impurities and allows water to be re-used; cold salt water spa option. Two year warranty parts and labor.
The name of the company may be new, but the makers of the AquaPacer have been in the business of aquatic therapy conditioning systems for people and animals for 25 years. The idea for their AquaPacer equine underwater treadmill originated in the early ’90s. The manufacturer claims most of the units they built then are still in service today. Features of the latest model include 270 degrees of view, 800 gallon, stainless-steel exercise chamber, direct-drive treadmill motor and water-storage reservoir and recirculation system. Above ground only; speeds 1 to 7 mph; water height up to 3ft; walk-though doors. Fill and drain controls allow customized conditioning sessions by varying the depth and resistance of the water. Emergency drain evacuates water in 23 seconds. Weight when empty 3400 lbs. Price: approximately $95,000.
HydroHorse, a leader in submerged aquatic systems, offers three in-ground models, starting at $66,000 (depending on installation and options) for the 54ft concrete pool with 10ft treadmill and 10HP powerpack. The 46ft pre-plumbed fiberglass version starts at $77,000 while you’ll need to dig even deeper for the ‘superior’ 56ft model. Speeds 3 to 15 mph; water height to 5ft. New in-ground production units now include an advanced digital control system (built in timers, distance traveled, speed, etc.) although retrofit kits are available for older models. Salt water chiller/heater units are optional for the two above-ground HydroCiser models. Both have ground level entry, filters, heaters, whirlpool jets and self-sealing doors. Both use 100 amp single phase power. The ‘Big Boy’ is identical to the standard 13ft x 13ft unit except that it has higher walls and start price is $65,000 – $5,000 more than the standard. HSI
PO Box 1034