Efficacy of Wearable Therapies on the Ability to Improve Performance and Physical Health in Sport Horses

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Virginia Tech

Equines have been used for utilized for manual labor, recreation, and companionship amongst many other valuable conveniences since their domestication. As the modern horse progressed from livestock to athlete, attention was paid to the body conformation to be used as an indicator of biomechanics and can dictate equine performance. Poor conformation can put physical limitations on the body and predispose the horse to injury and chronic disease. When not managed properly, these flaws can lead to injury, lameness, and premature retirement in sport horses. The distal limb is composed of tendons and ligaments that are all susceptible to tear or rupture. Protective wraps or boots are typically applied to the distal limb prior to exercise to prevent superficial injury from the environment or interference. However, these preventatives can trap heat against the skin which can have detrimental effects on the fibroblasts which can lead to failure. It was not until the early twentieth century that the idea of equine physiotherapy was adopted, and practices changed to meet remedial needs and create a sustainable, healthy equine athlete. Equine physiotherapy is a broad-spectrum term used to describe the therapeutic efforts made to keep the body in good health by means of prevention of injury to improve or maintain performance. Traditionally, therapeutics are administered by a veterinarian or trained professional in the event of an existing injury. In recent years therapeutics have been commercialized and are readily available for everyday preventative use. The most common readily available treatments being variations of pulsating electromagnetic fields (PEMF), vibration therapy, cryotherapy, and thermotherapy. When used prior to or after exercise, the therapeutics are designed to prepare the body for exercise and improve recovery by increasing circulation and down regulating the inflammatory response. The studies performed evaluate the efficacy of Rambo®Ionic (Horseware, Dundalk,Ireland), Lux Ceramic Therapy® (Schneider Saddlery Co., Inc., Ohio, USA), and Ice-Vibe® (Horseware, Dundalk,Ireland) therapeutic boots when applied to the distal limb as per manufacturer recommendation. The first study evaluated the therapeutic boots ability to alter performance performing gait analysis using the ALOGO™ MovePro (Alogo Technologies, Switzerland) stride sensor, blood analysis measuring serum concentrations of C reactive protein (CRP), basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) and tenascin-C (TN-C), and capturing thermal images of the distal limb using an HT-19 thermal imaging camera (HTI, La Vergne, TN). In this study, eight healthy horses were exercised for approximately ten minutes per day for five consecutive days. There was a ten-day washout period where the horse received no treatment between each period; there was a total of four periods. The second study only evaluated Rambo®Ionic (Horseware, Dundalk,Ireland) and Ice-Vibe® (Horseware, Dundalk,Ireland) therapeutic boots on seventeen healthy horses in the Virginia Tech equitation lesson program. There were three periods with five days of consecutive data collection and a ten-day washout period in between where the horses received no treatment. Gait analysis was measured using the ALOGO™ MovePro (Alogo Technologies, Switzerland) stride sensor and a blind behavioral analysis was performed to analyze behavioral changes under saddle in response to a rider.

Equine, Conformation, Biomechanics, Therapeutics, Performance