COLOMA — When people get hurt, they need rehabilitation. They also just need some spa treatments and therapy sometimes.
Horse owners everywhere will agree: Horses need those things too.
That’s why the Kettlehut family, of Riverside, has opened Fluid Motion Equine, LLC in Coloma Township.
“Our focus is going to be on the healthy horse and making sure it’s in good condition to make it through its competitive year,” owner Tammy Kettlehut said. “And any horse that gets injured and needs to be rehabbed. We’ll be prepared to do that as well.”
The facility, along Mountain Road right off I-94, features a water treadmill, a cold salt water spa, a vibe plate for vibration therapy, and a solarium for infrared light therapy – all for the horses.
“We’ve got a lot of people in this area that maybe are not aware of these treatments,” Tammy Kettlehut said. “So we have to do a little educating while we go along. I would say most of your really involved horseman know about these things, but in this area, I would say maybe 30 percent or less have used anything like this.”
This is the first therapy place for horses in Michigan. The closest facility similar is in southern Indiana.
The building, which used to be home to Pride Care ambulances, also has room to house eight horses overnight, as well as an area for horses to be examined by veterinarians who come in.
“Every horse is an athlete, when someone is on them – asking them to do some of the things that they do, it’s kind of amazing,” Tammy Kettlehut said. “When people invest in a horse and put five to six years of training into them, and it’s competing at a high level, taking precautions and doing some of these treatments is a way to extend the horse’s life, and protects their investment.”
Fluid Motion Equine is a bit of a dream come true for Tammy Kettlehut, and her daughter Sarah Kettlehut.
Sarah Kettlehut, who grew up showing horses, decided when she was around 6 or 7 that she wanted to be a veterinarian.
“But I didn’t want to do surgeries and stuff, so I was kind of on the fence with it,” she said. “When we found out about rehabilitation, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
Sarah Kettlehut has a bachelor’s degree in equine science with a concentration in rehab from Morrisville State College in New York, one of the only colleges in the country that offers a hands-on equine rehabilitation program.
In addition, Tammy Kettlehut has a certificate in horse management from Southwestern Michigan College through Michigan State University.
Sarah Kettlehut will manage the business and serve as rehabilitation technician full-time, and even live in an apartment in the back of the facility that used the be the break room for the ambulance workers, so someone is always there with the overnight horses. The stalls for the overnights horses are in the bay where the ambulances used to be housed.
Tammy Kettlehut, who commutes to work at Paragon in Holland, hopes once the business takes off that she can also make it a full-time job.
“We plan on doing a soft opening by the end of this month for haul-in clients,” she said. “We have a little ways to go before we have overnight guests, but a grand opening is tentatively planned for the weekend of the Kentucky Derby next year.”
The Kettlehuts, who are Coloma natives, are excited to be opening a business in their hometown and so close to I-94. There’s a horse show venue up in the Traverse City area that has grown in recent years, according to Tammy Kettlehut, and she hopes horses traveling through town will stop by for a little R&R before and after they compete.
The water treadmill fills with about 40 inches of water, and the speed is up to a trot for a horse.
“You add the resistance from the water and you can get some great cardiovascular vascular training with that,” Tammy Kettlehut said. “The good thing about a water treadmill compared to a dry treadmill when we have an injured horse is it adds buoyancy. So it supports some of the horse’s weight, which makes the rehab process more effective. A lot of the horses enjoy it because it’s something totally different than what they’re asked to do on a regular basis.”
The cold salt water spa serves as like an ice bath for the horses, just like human athletes.
“It’s really therapeutic for the soft tissues and swelling,” Tammy Kettlehut said. “It removes heat and is good for horses that have abscesses and cuts and injuries. It helps to heal. The water goes right up above their knees.”
The Kettlehuts have been researching how to open a business like this for about five years. Tammy even priced what it would cost to build a brand-new building for it, instead of renovating an existing space.
“I was thinking it was just a pipe dream, wouldn’t it be cool to do this,” she said. “One day I was doing my usual searching for equipment for sale, thinking we could maybe do this if we can find used equipment. I found a place out in Oregon that had the water treadmill and salt water spa, and the people that had it really wanted to see it in use again, and made a deal with us that we couldn’t refuse. We took a week’s vacation and drove across country to get it. The last vacation we’ll probably get in a while.”
For more information about the business, visit “Fluid Motion Equine, LLC” on Facebook, or call 269-449-0101.
Contact: anewman@TheHP.com, 932-0357, Twitter: @HPANewman