Therapeutic treatments for horses
Therapeutic treatments and products often play an extremely important role in keeping your horse in top condition. They can also help reduce the recovery time for certain injuries and be used as a preventative measure.
There are many approaches you can use at home and on the road to provide top quality care. I cannot stress enough that if an injury occurs, you should consult an equine veterinarian immediately to determine how to proceed. A brief exam of reoccurring swelling, pain or mild lameness should also be performed by a veterinarian to help evaluate the best course of treatment.
Different therapeutic options will be available depending on the type and location of injury. The most common categories include:
Bone — fracture, splints, bruising, bucked shins, traumatic concussive force, laminitis
Joint —OCD, arthritis, inflammation, wind puffs, sprains/strains
Muscle — soreness, strains/sprains/tears, hematoma, tying up
Tedon/Ligament — bowed tendon, suspensory injuries, tears/sprains/strains
Physical therapy devices promote a cell’s natural ability to heal itself. The therapies listed are proactive approaches you can implement into a veterinary plan, or use as a preventative method.
This non-invasive therapy is created by infusing ceramic particles in the fibers of the fabric. There are a variety of products to treat almost every area of the body: head caps, blankets, leg wraps, saddle pads, exercise boots, and joint wraps. The most well known brand is Back On Track.
The products work by radiating heat back towards the body. This increases blood circulation, which in turn provides oxygen and nutrients to the damaged soft tissue. This aids in healing and may speed up recovery time.
Issues like stocking up, wind puffs, scar tissue and stiffness can all benefit from the use of these products. Bone injuries, splints, and tendon/ligament damage should be treated with cold therapies for 2-3 days first. After that, ceramics can be introduced to promote healing.
It is extremely important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use and introduce the products gradually. It may take multiple uses before you see improvement, especially with long term injuries.
I do not recommend using ceramic fabrics in extreme heat, especially while hauling and standing tied to trailers at events in the direct sunlight.
Therapeutic devices using static magnets are not only controversial but difficult to understand due to the different types and strengths of magnets. Some users favor unipolar magnets, while others favor bipolar designs. Some companies argue that placing magnets on acupuncture points will produce a greater effect while other companies use an acupuncture meridian (line) to attempt to accomplish the same goal.
Magnetic therapy has been around for centuries. It is based on the fact that blood conducts electrically charged particles that react to magnetic fields. Blood vessels widen which increases circulation, creates muscle relaxation and reduces pain.
Increased blood flow not only provides more oxygen and nutrients, it allows for the removal of damaged cells and waste. The same types of injuries can benefit from this therapy as from the ceramic fabric products. Magnetic products are also good for prevention as increased blood flow can help prepare muscles, tendons and ligaments for exercise.
Magnet strength is measured in units called gauss. The natural magnetic field of the Earth is around 0.5-1, a refrigerator magnet is about 10 gauss, therapeutic magnets range from 200-2,500 gauss, and an MRI is over 10,000 gauss. There are several factors in determining the efficacy of magnetic products. Make sure to buy products from a reputable manufacturer and follow their instructions for use.
Most blankets and wraps are made from heavy duty mesh fabric, which allows the skin to be exposed to air — an absolute must in hot weather. It is also not recommended to exercise horses with high gauss magnets under non-breathable fabrics. Don’t ever use magnets over an open wound.
Traditionally, hoof boots were for riding barefoot and soft footed horses. The market has evolved to include gel orthotic boots for traveling, stalling, and relief from injury/disease.
Soft-RideTM helps to absorb the vibrations during trailering, eases the discomfort when stalling on hard surfaces, and provides support for horses with leg or hoof ailments. The sole is made of non-skid material, so the boots can help provide traction on slick surfaces.
The cornerstone of the product is that it supports the frog, which stimulates blood circulation through the hoof. There are different densities of the orthotic inserts so you can fine-tune your horse’s treatment.
The boots are also handy when barefoot horses have to be tied up in gravel areas or hot asphalt, like parking lots. They also provide temporary protection for the hoof when your horse loses a shoe.
Although there are several benefits and this is a great product to have on hand, a few concerns have been brought to my attention. A few owners have had a tough time finding the correct size. This can lead to the boots turning around and rubbing at the coronet band. Also, the gel pads are not sold separately, which frustrates long time users. You should avoid using the boots in turnouts with standing water or sand because these can become irritating when trapped inside.
Remember to read and follow manufacturer’s instructions and be diligent in checking the equipment to make sure they aren’t too tight, loose or hot for your horse. Make sure to introduce new devices slowly, and for short periods of time. I believe these therapies are a terrific complement to traditional treatments like joint injections, shockwave, PRP and IRAP.