Electromagnetic stimulation treatments like capacitive and resistive electric transfer (CRET) are common for reducing pain and improving the quality of life for humans with bone, joint and inflammatory issues. The method, which involves using long-wave radiofrequency energy to generate a warming effect on tissue, has now been suggested to offer similar benefits for horses.

According to HorseTalk, the study led by Ana Muñoz set out to understand the impact this method has on a horse’s mobility. Her hypothesis that CRET would redistribute power in the dorso-ventral, longitudinal and medial-lateral axes of the horse aimed to prove that the results would subsequently show a positive change in the strides of the horses, therefore revealing therapeutic value.

The team wrote in BMC Veterinary Research that “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 were also interested in finding out whether two sessions over the course of 2 days would show any further benefit.

For the experiment, nine horses underwent two CRET sessions after exercising on a treadmill, and a radiofrequency of 448 kHz was used on both sides of the neck, shoulder, back and croup. Frequencies of this level are common in several pulsed radiofrequency therapy treatments for humans and have been linked to significant reduction in pain.

Attached with an accelerometer on their pectoral region and in the sacrum midline, the horses’ walks and trots were evaluated on the treadmill before the CRET was applied 2, 6 and 12 hours after the exercise. This was repeated the next day, following the exact same procedure. Over the course of 5 and 7 days later, the horses were then given a placebo procedure that involved being attached to the external treatment without any operation.

The results of the research showed what Muñoz had hoped. Once the tests concluded, a state of relaxation was observed in the subjects. This included a lowering of the head and, for some, a fall of the lower lip. CRET was also proven to increase dorso-ventral, medial-lateral and longitudinal power. A redistribution of power was apparent through the reduced percentage of dorso-ventral exertion used, increasing stride regularity. The researchers state that among the most consistent responses to the treatment were “increased muscle power, longer stride length and lower stride frequency.” The placebo procedure did not affect any of the accelerometric variables studied.

Although the team’s findings mean great things regarding the future of pain treatment for horses, they note that not every outcome in their hypothesis went as planned.

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

Muñoz and her team anticipate further studies to be conducted with their research, potentially evaluating the effects of CRET on overall performance changes for horses competing in a variety of disciplines.

Other members are Mireya Becero, Aritz Saitua, Cristina Castejón-Riber and Cristina Riber and Antonia Lucía Sánchez de Medina from the University of Córdoba, and David Argüelles with the Autonomous University of Barcelona. Learn more about their research here.

Muñoz, A., Becero, M., Saitua, A., Arguelles, D., Riber, C., Medina, A., Castejón-Riber, C. 09, Jan. 2020. "Capacitive resistive electric transfer modifies gait pattern in horses exercised on a treadmill". BMC Veterinary Research.