The Sanctuary Equine Sports Therapy & Rehabilitation Center- Florida’s Resource For Fitness, Rehabilitation and Post Surgery Care

Monday, October 19, 2009


The Sanctuary Equine Sports Therapy & Rehabilitation Center, located on 30 pristine acres in Ocala, Florida, is a world-class, multi-million dollar facility dedicated to the healing, conditioning and well-being of all equine athletes. The Sanctuary features some of the most advanced conditioning and rehab equipment in the world and their staff is committed to excellence. An exceptional caring staff complements the state of the art facility.


Horsemen and horsewomen from several disciplines have come to recognize the Sanctuary as the finest, most comprehensive facility of its kind in the world dedicated to treating both equines and canines. High performance competitors, including top dressage horses, are using The Sanctuary’s facilities for rehab, post-surgery rehab, conditioning, fitness and training. The Sanctuary has a capacity for 42 horses, featuring two 20-stall barns and a therapy building with two 12 x 24 air-conditioned and heated stalls.

Brenda McDuffee, General Manager of The Sanctuary, said the facility is well-suited for treating medical conditions that often face dressage horses. “The conditions we have seen the most in dressage horses have been hind end problems or weaknesses and suspensory injuries,” she said. “The Sanctuary has many therapies that address these injuries and targets specific problems.” “I have had the opportunity to have my horse in a number of post surgical and rehab facilities in the US. My experience at the Sanctuary far exceed my expectations. The attention to detail and commitment to my horse was unparalleled”, said dressage rider and owner Johnny Robb of Loxahatchee, FL.


The Sanctuary’s state-of-the-art equipment includes an Aqua-Pacer underwater treadmill that is used frequently to strengthen hip and back muscle weakness or injury. With the water at abdomen level, the horse rounds up his back and engages his hind end. The therapist controls the depth of the water and the speed of the treadmill making this a completely controlled exercise program which encourages balanced movement from side-to-side and front-end to back-end. “We also use the treadmill after leg injuries have begun to heal, and we have an exercise program that offers low concussion and buoyancy while encouraging full range of motion to rebuild muscle and regain strength,” McDuffee said. “In many cases, the horses return to work sooner than they would with conventional treatments and are stronger than they were before the injury.”


Soft tissue injuries are often common in top equine athletes and The Sanctuary treats these, as well as wounds, in their hyperbaric chamber. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) increases the solubility of oxygen in the body dramatically increasing the availability of oxygen to the tissues. This process allows oxygen to enter plasma and tissues more readily and promotes the formation of new cells. HBOT reduces inflammation and swelling, increases drug efficacy, and stimulates faster cell turnover resulting in faster healing. A faster recovery helps prevent the chance of secondary problems that might occur and returns the horse to his normal training and showing program in a shorter amount of time.


The Sanctuary’s Cold Salt Water Leg Spa treats a large number of injuries such as soft tissue injuries, wounds, abscesses, cellulitis/lymphangitis and laminitis. There is an immediate pain relieving effect within a couple minutes of being in the leg spa, as the 35 degree water temperature helps to break the heat cycle in the injury and the high salinity level in the water (250 pounds of Epsom salt and sea salt in 520 gallons of water) acts like a poultice to draw out inflammation, swelling and infection. Once out of the leg spa, the circulatory system increases blood flow and oxygen to the extremities increasing tissue repair and speeding up the healing process.


Laser therapy is one of the "mobile" modalities used at The Sanctuary, as it can also be taken to a farm or horse show. Laser therapy treats joint problems, muscle and soft tissue injuries, and wounds.


Laser treatments relieve pain, reduce inflammation and swelling, and repair tissue faster while minimizing scarring and reducing infection opportunities.

Electromagnetic Pulse Therapy, another of The Sanctuary’s "mobile" modalities, improves circulation, helps release lactic acid buildup in tissue, and relieves muscle soreness, muscle strain, and joint stiffness. This therapy rebuilds muscle tissue and strength where atrophy or muscle weakness has occurred due to injury or lack of use and increases range of motion. Electromagnetic Pulse Therapy is also used on high performance horses before and after competitions to improve performance in the arena and recover faster after the show.


All therapy performed at The Sanctuary is done under the prescription and direction of the horse owner’s own veterinarian. Along with therapies, the qualified and well-trained staff also administers medications, provides bandaging and any other instructions prescribed by the veterinarian. Attention is also given to keeping horses in the best show condition possible, and grooming and blanketing (per owners instruction) are a standard part of The Sanctuary’s service. In addition, the staff is in constant contact with the owner, trainer and veterinarian to keep everyone informed of the horse’s progress.

The Sanctuary is highly committed to supporting the equine community and will sponsor the 2010 Wellington Dressage show circuit, including classes from the Gold Coast Dressage Association and the Wellington Classic Dressage shows. “The Sanctuary is proud to sponsor the Wellington Dressage shows. We have many clients who participate in this series and it seemed natural that we be involved in such an important event in our home state,” said Tom Grabe, The Sanctuary’s Managing Partner.

In addition, The Sanctuary has been chosen as the official rehab center for the HITS Ocala show circuit, and Grabe said the facility works hard to help all riders keep their horses competing at their peak. “We have the capability of helping equine athletes stay fit, avoid injury, and recover faster and more completely from certain injuries they might experience when competing in such an intense, physically demanding sport,” Grabe said.


World-class competitors such as seven-time United States National Combined Driving Champion Chester Weber are avid supporters of The Sanctuary. Weber’s team of champion Warmbloods, who consistently win the dressage phase at all combined driving events, have come to rely on The Sanctuary’s Aqua Pacer for a low impact fitness workout. They also take advantage of the Cold Saltwater Leg Spa to alleviate some of the swelling associated with the rigors a top sport horse can be subjected to during training and competition.

In addition to being committed to the healing, conditioning and well-being of equine athletes, The Sanctuary has also become a vital part of the equestrian community. The Sanctuary has taken part in activities such as the Central Florida Community College’s Horseman’s Society, the Marion County Literacy Council, local fundraisers and community symposiums.

Phone: 1-352-369-HEAL (4325)