As many of us know, if we exercise too hard we feel lactic acid build up. From this we feel our muscles cramp, we become stiff and fatigued, particularly the next day. This is down to a pH imbalance. Most basic magnotherapy (therapy using magnets) has a lot in common with massage, but without the pressure. It is said to increase blood flow and assist in the removal of toxins due to this increased movement, assisting in a quick recovery.
With this in mind it is easy to see how, with the use of magnotherapy, the chances of injury are dramatically reduced if muscles, joints, circulation and ligaments are all warmed up gradually prior to use. Similarly, soothing and supporting these areas where we can after exercise prevents the onset of stiffness and aids the speed of repair should the muscles have been overexerted.
Many event riders apply different methods of magnotherapy after competition while the horses are in the horsebox on the way home. Magnetic rugs, magnetic boots and head collars are all very effective in helping the horse come off the box less stiff.
Thermography is a method used to measure tendon temperatures. Tests have been done to measure tendon temperatures in horses wearing magnotherapy boots. These studies* showed that after a 12 hour period there was no significant difference in leg temperatures between that of the limb wearing the boot and the control limb without the boot. After 24 hours however the results were definitive. There was an overall increase of 2 degrees C in the limb having worn the magnetic boot, compared to that of the control limb. Even after the boot was removed the temperature continued to stay 1 degree C higher in the treated limb 1 hour later.
After successful human studies showing that the use of magnotherapy benefited delayed union fractures, it is suggested that horses with arthritis would also benefit from the use of magnotherapy. The use of pulsed electromagnetic therapy in particular has been shown to greatly reduce healing time in non-union fractures. This principle can be applied to horses with arthritis. Pulsed electromagnotherapy is not only effective on bony tissues; it is believed by many physiotherapists that the pulses can penetrate soft tissue. This can prove very beneficial when injury has occurred deep into horses muscles, or in areas where manipulation it too painful. It is advised that pulsed magnets be used by trained therapists.
As mentioned magnotherapy, like massage stimulates blood flow, bringing with it oxygen rich blood that aids healing. Along with this nutrient-rich blood comes drug-free pain relief. This becomes all the more important the further we get in competing, where illegal drugs are disallowed. The magnets are used to target acupuncture points, benefiting the horse by providing healing and pain relief without the use of needles.
In addition to this form of therapy, it is important to protect horses with the right equestrian clothing, which can be found at places such as Anything Equine.
There are many people that believe magnets as a therapy method to be gimmicky, however while definitive evidence is still being accumulated there are many experts that will admit that there is very little harm that magnotherapy can do, even when it may not provide any actual benefit. There are only a few situations in which magnets should not be used.
They should be avoided on untreated infection sites, on open wounds, while exercising if you horse has a pin/plate in the area, within this first 48 hours after an injury, on horses diagnosed with cancer or prior to obtaining a diagnosis from a vet.
*study performed at the Therapy Centre at Hartpury College.