A US based company is bringing engineering technology into equine lameness rehabilitation with a new medical device that looks like a cross between an artificial leg and a horse boot.
The $2000 Fast Track boots from Horsepower Technologies are made of aircraft-grade aluminum and provide a structure that takes the weight off tendons and ligaments. Internally, the device molds into the horse’s leg and heats up to relieve the area. A dial on the side of the device allows changes to the degree of restriction of motion: Horses that recently injured themselves can only walk, horses on the way to recovery can be allowed to flex their fetlocks more for trotting.
Horsepower’s chief veterinary officer Carl Kirker-Head said the boots fulfilled “a previously unmet need for the veterinary profession”.
“The amount of support provided to the injured tendon or ligament can be variably controlled depending on the duration and severity of the injury, and the stage of the rehabilitative regimen.”
Fast Track is being sold only to veterinarians as it requires some individual training to use.
Horsepower Technologies said lameness accounts for hundreds of millions of dollars in losses in the horse industry every year.
“There’s an old saying in the horse world: it’s not if your horse is going to go lame, it’s when,” Mouli Ramani, CEO and president of Horsepower Technologies, said. “Horses don’t naturally become lame. These horses became lame because they work so hard … We overtrain them because we want them to win.”
Fast Track was launched on the market last July. “Paradoxically, the fact that I wasn’t a horse person allowed me see this as engineering problem,” Ramani said.
Early mobilization post-injury has many benefits including increasing blood flow and lymphatic flow to promote healing; stimulating tissue repair for faster healing; limiting the extent of connective tissue fibrosis, all while preserving range of motion. A report presented at the 2010 American Association of Equine Practitioners Annual Convention reported that early mobilization produced a 60% improvement in tendon Type 1 collagen deposition (evidence of healing) along with a 20% improvement in maximum load potential.
FastTrack for rehabilitating horses off-loads the flexor apparatus (superficial and deep digital flexor tendons, suspensory ligament and associated structures) by providing a variable degree of mechanical support to the fetlock joint. This reduces the pain associated with flexor apparatus injury (tendinopathy, desmopathy, etc), allows a safe early return to function, and reduces the opportunity for re-injury of the damaged tissues.
Leading eventing trainer David O’Connor describes the Fast Track boots as “a game changer”.
“In eventing especially we do find that the superficial tendon can be strained easily. Since there are no muscles below the horse’s knee there is a lot of strain that goes on to that apparatus.
“I really do feel like this is what we have been looking for, for … having those tendons, or suspensory, or ligaments be able to come back with full strength.”