Treatment increased power and stride length in healthy horses – study

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The use of a treatment called capacitive and resistive electric transfer (CRET) showed benefits in horses exercised on a treadmill, researchers in Spain report.

CRET is an externally applied treatment that uses long-wave radiofrequency energy. It has a mild warming effect on tissue and has been shown to reduce pain and improve quality of life in many orthopedic degenerative and inflammatory problems in human patients.

Ana Muñoz and her colleagues set out to learn about the effects of this type of radiofrequency treatment on the locomotor pattern of horses.

“Based on the results obtained in previous studies in humans, the main objective of the current study was to investigate whether the application of CRET might affect the accelerometric parameters measured at walk and at trot in sound horses exercised on a treadmill,” they wrote in the journal, BMC Veterinary Research.

A second objective was to evaluate whether an accumulative effect appeared when two CRET sessions were applied on consecutive days.

They hypothesised that the use of CRET in horses would change total power and would also lead to a redistribution of total power in the three body axes — dorsoventral, longitudinal and mediolateral.

If proven correct, they expected that these changes would affect stride.

Nine sound horses were subjected to two CRET sessions at a radiofrequency of 448 kHz, applied to both the right and left sides of the neck, shoulder, back and croup.

The horses were evaluated on a treadmill, at walk and at a trot, before CRET application, and then 2, 6 and 12 hours later.

A second CRET session was applied the next day, and the animals were evaluated again at the same three lengths of time after the treatment session.

Between 5 and 7 days later, the same horses were subjected to a sham procedure and were evaluated in the same time-frames as the CRET experiment.

During the treadmill sessions, locomotion parameters were measured with an accelerometer fixed in the pectoral region and in the sacrum midline.

The authors reported that none of the horses showed any negative side-effects during the study. On the contrary, a relaxation state was noted during the application of CRET, with head lowering and a fall of the lower lip seen in some horses.

The sham procedure did not affect any of the accelerometric variables studied, they reported.

However, the use of CRET resulted in increased dorsoventral, mediolateral and longitudinal power. They also found a reduction in dorsoventral power expressed as a percentage of total power.

Stride regularity increased with the treatment, they found.

“The greater total power resulted in longer stride length and, because the velocity was kept fixed on the treadmill, stride frequency decreased.

“An accumulative effect of CRET application was only found in stride length and frequency.”

The findings supported the researchers’ first two hypotheses, but the third could not be confirmed.

“We hypothesized that an accumulative effect of the CRET would be observed when two sessions of CRET were applied on two consecutive days. Although an accumulative effect was found in some of the studied variables, such effect was not clear in others.”

One of the most consistent responses to CRET in the current research was the increase in stride length and consequently, the reduction in stride frequency, as the treadmill velocity remained invariable, they said. These results agreed with those reported in a study of recreational runners, which found an increase in step length and a reduction in step frequency after CRET.

“These changes were attributed to the thermophysiological responses caused by CRET.

“In our study, and according to the correlation analysis, the main determinants of the longer stride length were the increases in total power and particularly in propulsive power.”

They continued: “Our study demonstrated that application of CRET on the horse significantly modifies the accelerometric pattern of the horse evaluated on a treadmill, leading to increased muscle power, longer stride length and lower stride frequency.

The evaluation of the effects of these locomotor changes on performance was beyond the scope of this study, they said, but they should be studied in future for horses competing in different disciplines.

Ana Muñoz. Mireya Becero, Aritz Saitua, Cristina Castejón-Riber and Cristina Riber and Antonia Lucía Sánchez de Medina, all affiliated with the University of Córdoba; and David Argüelles, with the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

Becero, M., Saitua, A., Argüelles, D. et al. BMC Vet Res (2020) 16: 10. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12917-020-2233-x

The study, published under a Creative Commons License, can be read here

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