A Center For Healing
Daniel Vernay and Sandy Hersman have made a sizable investment
in their Grayson County equine rehabilitation facility, but it's
the horses who have really taken the plunge.
One by one, all through the day, they are brought from their stalls,
hosed down, then led down a ramp onto a stationary treadmill submerged
in 52 inches of water, where an atten¬dant sets the pace on
the Hydro Horse machine for a brisk and buoyant 15-minute power
"It's good for the tendons and good for the heart," explains
Daniel, a cer¬tified veterinary technician. "Unlike swimming,
this is still a weight-bear¬ing exercise - but without the concus¬sion.
Walking under water takes 40 to 60 percent of the weight off their
limbs, while adding resistance to build strength.
"Swimming can be good therapy, too. But because horses swim
with their hind legs hyperextended and their backs arched, it's
not good for injured hocks, stifles or vertebrae. And since they
swim with their forefeet cupped, you don't get the full range of
motion as with a treadmill."
"The horses seem to enjoy it. They're getting exercise without
pain. We've had horses from the track that were really on their
toes when they came here. In 10 days, they were a lot more mellow
The routine runs three horses an hour, six days a week. Every five
min¬utes, the water recirculates through three large sand filters.
In the winter, it's heated to 80 degrees.
The horses in the 20-stall barn, located in Whitesboro between Sherman
and Gainesville, are mostly Thoroughbreds from the major Texas tracks,
with a few from Delaware, Kentucky and other states. Most are recovering
from a variety of ail¬ments—bowed tendons, knee or ankle
surgery for bone chips, even colic. Eye Opening Episode, a Quarter
Horse that finished second in last year's All American Futurity,
was one celebrity patient. Daniel follows veterinarians' instructions
for 30 to 45 days of reha¬bilitation.
When the horses emerge from the treadmill, their forelegs are wrapped
and they're led outside for half an hour on a deluxe walker. The
circular Equine Auto Trainer, 70 feet in diameter, accommodates
eight horses at a time. They are not tethered, but turned loose
into individual 27-foot runs, separated by free-swinging mesh-wire
panels on each end. The walls are of rubber, and the footing is
deep sand. There is no risk of injury. When the electric power is
switched on, the walker rotates like a carousel, at speeds ranging
from a walk to a canter, and the horses begin their cool-down exercise.
Twenty-four revolutions equal a mile.
"A horse trotting in a circle tends to lean to the inside and
put more torque on those limbs," says Daniel. "So we change
directions every seven minutes. It evens out the pressure on the
Other services offered at Equine Health Care and Rehabilitation
Center include alternative therapies (laser, electrical stimulation,
magnetic and ultrasound), general physical condi¬tioning, sales
preparation for yearlings, and lay-ups for horses between races.
Sandy Hersman's 38-acre property around the corner, which has an
eight-stall barn and five-acre paddocks, is ideal for this.
Sandy had met Daniel when he managed a stable in Carbondale, Colo.,
where she was riding with trainer Gary Day. She had grown up with
Quarter Horses on a Western Slope Hereford ranch and had ridden
competitively during her boarding school years in California and
Daniel had left his family's vineyard business in the Rhone Valley
of France to come to America in 1981. Although he had studied viticulture,
he was a horseman at heart. At 27, he got a job on a Thoroughbred
breeding farm in Maryland and later worked at race¬tracks there
and in Florida. Interested in rehabilitation, he earned a veteri¬nary
technician certificate at Colorado Mountain College, then followed
with internships at prominent equine hos¬pitals in Colorado
and Kentucky. Ear¬nest and meticulous, Daniel acquired a broad
background in equine surgery, radiology, anesthesia, dentistry,
Sandy also attended Colorado Moun¬tain College, where she earned
a degree in photography and won the Kinsa Kodak International Award
A year ago, when a property in Pilot Point with an Aqua-Tred (similar
to the Hydro Horse) came up for lease, Sandy and Daniel moved to
Texas and started their business. A better opportunity arose this
year on a former Western Pleasure show barn in Whitesboro, and Equine
Health Care moved to its new home in late August.
Daniel is the barn owner and man¬ager, while Sandy handles the
office, public relations, and the adjoining lay-up facility. Hooked
on reining, she's working on her non-pro card with her Quarter Horse,
Kip. Also stalled in the barn are Willie, a Mr. Impressive grandson
and her all-around mount, and Rupee, her first Quarter Horse, now
36 years old.
Future plans call for an additional 10 stalls, a round pen for free
exer¬cise, a 24-square-foot sandbox for the horses just to roll
in, a swimming pool, and perhaps a name change.
"We're thinking about Selway Center," says Daniel, "after
the Selway River in Idaho, where I spent many months working on
ranches in the Bitterroot Wilderness. Selway, pronounced Sal-wah
in the Nez Perce language, means 'sound of water flow¬ing.'
It is a very special place for me.
"But don't ask me how to say it in French!"
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