The use of a system of elastic bands in an exercise programme proved effective in increasing the dynamic stability of horses at the trot, British researchers report.
Many horses are affected by lameness and back problems, which can be prevented or treated with training or rehabilitation programmes that aim to improve core muscle strength in order to increase dynamic stability.
However, until now, there has been little supporting evidence for the effectiveness of such programmes.
Fresh research by the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) has found that the use of a specific system of elastic resistance bands proved effective in increasing dynamic stability of horses at the trot.
The elastic bands, which are easily accessible to horses owners, can be used to prevent injuries as well as overcome them, the researchers say.
The research analysed the effects of a four-week exercise programme, which was devised with the use of the elastic band system, on the movement of seven privately owned riding horses’ backs.
The programme involved the use of a modified saddle pad to which two elastic bands (the hindquarter band and the abdominal band) were attached using buckle clips with the bands fitted at 30% tension.
A statistical model was used that investigated the effect of band usage.
Back movement parameters were calculated from a total of 3215 strides (25 to 89 strides at a time) at week one and week four, with and without the use of the exercise bands.
The riders reported a greater “stability of movement” when the elastic bands were used. This was reinforced by the research, which found that when using the bands there was less roll (rotation around the forward-backwards axis) and pitch (rotation around the left-right axis) at the level of the lower back, as well as less left-right movement in the mid thoracic and lumbar regions.
“Until now there has been little supporting evidence on the effect of training and rehabilitation programmes in preventing and/or treating lameness and back problems in horses,” said Dr Thilo Pfau, senior lecturer in bio-engineering at the college.
“The system we tested is easy to use during the normal exercise routine of a horse, meaning it can be applied to horses of any discipline. It also takes very little time to apply to the horse, considering all it entails is attaching the bands to a modified saddle pad, and it can be used during ridden exercise.”
Pfau and his fellow researchers are now encouraging future studies to directly measure muscle activity to improve understanding of the underlying mechanisms involved in providing increased dynamic stability.
A paper on the research has been accepted for publication in the Equine Veterinary Journal.
Pfau was joined in the research by Professor Renate Weller, professor in comparative imaging and biomechanics at the RVC; Victoria Simons, an RVC veterinary student; Nicole Rombach of Equinology Inc., California; and N. Stubbs, from both the Department of Equine Sports Medicine, in Tierklinik Lűsche, Germany, and the Napoli Slovak Equestrian Club in Samorin, Slovakia.
Effect of a 4-week elastic resistance band training regimen on back kinematics in horses trotting in-hand and on the lunge
T. Pfau, V. Simons, N. Rombach, N. Stubbs, R. Weller
The abstract can be read here.