New Robotic Lifting Device Works to Help Injured Horses

Researchers and engineers from the University of Saskatchewan have created a lifting device that provides mobility, weight distribution and support for healing horses.

Left: The equine lift in use. This lift holds the potential to help horses recover more easily from injuries. Right: The equine lift research team, from left: students Alison Williams, Louisa Belgrave, Dr. Julia Montgomery and Dr. James Montgomery.

Christina Weese

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To help horses recover from limb fractures and other traumatic injuries, researchers and engineers from the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, have created a robotic lift system for injured horses.

According to a news release from the university, written by Alison Williams, a third-year veterinary student, “A team of researchers has partnered with RMD Engineering, a local Saskatoon engineering and manufacturing company, to design and build a one-of-a-kind robotic lift system. The lift will help rehabilitate horses suffering from acute injuries and other musculoskeletal problems by providing mobility, weight distribution and support.”

Normally, a horse’s recovery from surgery is complicated: They have a strong flight response, and they’re heavy weight can cause issues too. And, as Williams points out:

“Veterinarians regularly use slings to help support injured horses, but current designs significantly limit the animals’ normal activity and support all of their weight on the thorax and abdomen. This leads to further problems because of compression on the lungs and development of pressure sores.

With the lift system … clinicians can reduce and redistribute the weight the horse is carrying dynamically. The system allows the animal to be mobile with its weight partially or fully supported by the lift.

Leg fractures are one of the most common injuries that will benefit from this new technology, but the lift can also be used with equine patients suffering from other musculoskeletal and neurological problems.”

The team is still testing out their lift. They started with healthy horses, to see how they tolerated the lift. Next they’ll move onto injured horses to see if it helps with recovery time and reduces the chances for complications.

Regarding the lift, the researchers say it “provides a novel and unique solution to a very frustrating problem that currently doesn’t have a solution.”

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