THE first £1.5m phase of a development project at a Neston equine hospital has been officially opened by Princess Anne.

The Princess Royal arrived at Liverpool University’s Leahurst Veterinary Centre in a helicopter, before being escorted to the new reception area.

Dressed in an olive suit with boots, Princess Anne seemed at home in a setting close to her heart.

She was introduced to university vice chancellor Sir Howard Newby and Professor of Equine Studies Chris Proudman.

Professor Proudman said: “We’re delighted that she has offered to come and open the first phase of the hospital development for us.”

“She’s a very experienced horse owner herself, and doubtless has used the services of an equine veterinary surgeon over the years.”

The first phase has seen the completed reception area spring up, as well as a new entrance yard and MRI facility.

Over the next three years, the university hopes to raise a further £6m for the construction of a Colic Prevention and Performance Centre, to combat a disease that kills more horses than any other.

Professor Proudman added: “It’s not just about wealthy people and their pleasure horses.

“There are over 100 million working horses and donkeys around the world, and an important part of our mission is for the development in equine health care we bring about to filter through to the developing world, where horses and donkeys are still very much a part of people’s livelihoods.”

Following a brief tour of the new facilities, Princess Anne unveiled the plaque and said: “It’s important knowledge is available to all those who treat animals.

“We all need to work as well as possible to increase the knowledge and make sure it’s available.”