The University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine's New Bolton Center has long been revered as a first-class equine hospital, in part because of their pool recovery system that is designed to help horses safely come out of anesthesia.
Put into use 40 years ago, the pool was a critical innovation in equine surgical procedures that require the horse to be placed under anesthesia. While there are now several other equine hospitals with pool recovery systems, they differ fundamentally from the New Bolton Center pool.
In the other systems, the horse is partially submerged in the water and supported directly with a sling system. Because the horse and its newly repaired limb are in the water, considerable care is required to keep the surgical site dry.
In the New Bolton Center system, the horse's body and limbs are within the rubber raft, which keeps the horse's body dry.
As horses are prey animals, their first instinct when recovering from anesthesia is to stand and run, which endangers any repairs made to an injured limb. Horses that scramble after a fracture repair can overload the limb so much that the surgical repair can fail, even in a padded stall with human help during recovery.
Dr. Jacques Jenny, nicknamed the “father of equine orthopedic surgery,” created the pool-raft system in use at New Bolton that allows horses to safely regain consciousness before being asked to bear weight on a repaired limb.
The C. Mahlon Kline Orthopedic and Rehabilitation building houses both the indoor recovery pool and surgical suites at the hospital. The pool is 22 feet wide and 11 feet deep; it holds 30,000 gallons of continuously filtered, brominated water at 96 degrees F. The pool is surrounded by cantilevered deck that allows access to the horse while preventing the horse's legs from striking the wall during recovery.
The raft on which the horse is places is a six-man, U.S. Navy life raft that is modified to accommodate the horse's limbs. A rail system lifts the horse from the surgical table and into the raft and pool, then out of the pool and into a recovery stall.