The UK’s first operation to fit a pacemaker to a horse took place last week at the Royal Veterinary College in Hertfordshire.

Xena, a seven-year-old Irish Draught/Thoroughbred mare who is in-foal to the show jumping stallion Renkum Valentino, was fitted with the life-saving device by vets Celia Marr and Adrian Boswood.

Xena was suffering from a rare condition in equines known as a “complete heart block”. Although pacemakers have been fitted to horses for experimental purposes, this is thefirst time one has been used for treatment in the UK.

Owner Asier Cebeira was relieved that his mare’s condition was swiftly diagnosed and that Xena is progressing well.

“We hope the pacemaker will give her a new lease of life. She will never be ridden again, but, all being well, she should be able produce foals,” said 19-year-old actor Asier, soon to be seen in BBC1’s Casualty.

The pacemaker is the size of a book of matches and sits under the skin in Xena’s neck. A wire follows the jugular vein down to the heart. “Xena’s condition is uncommon and pacemakers have only been used a few times in the US, France and Holland,” said Celia Marr.

For more information see Horse & Hound issue dated 15 February.