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Treatment coming for Plateau horses

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Equine spa uses salt water to cure leg troubles

By Kevin Hanson

The Courier-Herald

Figuring the horse-happy Enumclaw Plateau has plenty of four-legged friends in need of medical treatment, Monica Harkins is about to embark on a new business venture.

With the backing of a silent partner, she purchased a $65,000 Equine Therapeutic Spa, had it shipped from Australia and will begin offering treatments March 1.

The spa unit offers a drug-free means of rehabilitating horses with leg injuries. “It's so much easier than antibiotics,” said Harkins, who learned of the technology while doing research after two of her own horses were hurt.

“I just knew what my horses had been through” with injections, she said, and was convinced the spa treatments were a better remedy.

The unit works something like a hot tub, Harkins said, with some glaring differences. First, it's a walk-in unit; once the horse steps into place, doors at the front and rear close tight and a strap goes over the top to keep the animal from rearing up and hurting itself (or others). Water is pumped in only as high as necessary to treat the injury. And finally, jets are in the floor only, rather than in the side walls.

The water used in the hydrotherapy is nothing like a hot tub for humans, as it's chilled to a near-freezing 34 degrees. Also, it is treated to resemble sea water, which is known for its healing purposes.

The horse simply stands still as water rapidly swirls around its legs.

Harkins touts the technology as the least-invasive way to treat such ailments as lacerations, soft tissue damage (tendons, ligaments, muscles, etc.) and especially laminitis. It also aims at helping animals suffering from arthritis, bursitis, fractures and splints.

The treatment an animal receives is determined by the type, severity and age of the injury. Each hydrotherapy session is about 30 minutes and horses can receive one or two sessions per day. Simple troubles might only require one day, while other problems could call for treatments several days in a row. To make things easier on horse owners, Harkins has had several stalls added so she can board horses during their treatment regimen.

Treatment sessions will average between $50 and $60, Harkins said, with price breaks for those requiring multiple treatments.

Harkins is planning a “demonstration day” for Feb. 26 to give those in the horse community an opportunity to check out the horse spa. For planning reasons, she's asking those planning to attend to let her know in advance by calling 360-825-8413.

Harkins, who has been around horses since getting a job cleaning stalls at the a ge of 14, is promoting the new venture under her existing moniker, Simply Sporthorses, which she has used in the horse-breeding business. The operation is run from her home at the end of 218th Avenue Southeast, just north of state Route 164 (the Auburn-Enumclaw Highway).

Kevin Hanson can be reached at khanson@courierherald.com.

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