Absolutely horrendous news from Florida on Friday.  KESMARC, a state of the art equine sports medicine rehabilitation centre was the site of a freak accident when a hyperbaric chamber containing a horse undergoing treatment suddenly exploded killing newlywed Erica Marshall, the technician operating the device, and seriously injuring intern veterinary physiotherapy student, Sorcha Moneley.

Sorcha Moneley, who had attended several skills training and mentoring with me shortly before leaving for Florida, had made me pea green with envy when she told me last year that she would be training at this world class equine rehab centre for several months over the winter.

Extremely lucky to be alive, she is now recovering in hospital with multiple fractures, having undergone surgery on her pelvis and cannot travel home for several weeks.  I can barely imagine how deeply traumatising this incident must be, both for Erica Marshall’s family and for Sorcha who survived the horrific explosion while observing the treatment which claimed the lives of the technician and a horse in close proximity to Sorcha.

Here is a nine minute video which demonstrates a horse receiving a hyperbaric treatment, with a detailed explanation from the technician about what it involves:

Rumoured to have occurred as a result of sparks igniting the explosion from the horse’s metal shoes contacting the chamber wall, I cannot comment on this subject while an investigation is underway, save to say that it seems to me that these devices should be cited remotely enough so that they pose no risk to bystanders.  Ridiculous as it sounds, it is widely accepted among horse owners that if, for example, you place a horse in a 20 acre field with a single nail head exposed in the fencing, that horse will injure itself on that nail.  That is how much minute attention to detail is required when reducing injury risk where horses are concerned.

Sincerest sympathy to Erica Marshall’s family, wishing Sorcha a speedy recovery and hoping that the KESMARC centre will return to the good work of helping needy equines in the future.

I’m also very sad for the horse owner and rider who lost their talented young horse, Landmark’s Legendary Affaire, in this horrific way.  Ironically, the horse will now be legendary for horrendously tragic reasons.