Morgan Murphy

Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy in Horses

You know the feeling. You've been out for a long trail ride or a schooling session. You go home, take a bath and then it hits you — the aches and pains. If you are prone to arthritis or joint pain, you know that things could feel even worse the day after.

Freddy enjoying the centurion PEMF blanket*

Now imagine how your horse feels. Not only is he challenged to perform various movements, but he also carries you on his back. There are often risks of sprains, joint aches and minor strains when he is ridden that can lead to lameness and impact his performance if left untreated.

Over the past few years different technologies have been developed and designed to relieve pain in horses and increase their sense of wellbeing after working. Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy blankets are one such technology that can make a significant impact on your horse’s comfort after work, as well as in cases of chronic and acute injury. 

What are Pulsed Electromagnetic Field (PEMF) Blankets?

First used in human therapy in the 1970s, PEMF has been used for everything from the rehabilitation of injury as part of physiotherapy to relief of pain to aiding in the healing of fractures. Success in this field has been such that those working with horses looked to develop the technology into a useable form for equine pain and treatments.

 The principle of electromagnetic therapy is the effect on charged particles within cells. Each cell within the body contains charged particles that are called ions, and the electrical potential between the positive and negative charges causes a weak electrical current to flow through the body.  This is entirely natural and aids certain processes within the body.  Changes in the electrical potential of cells results in the activation of various ion "pumps", which work to move nutrients back and forth across the cell wall from the cell into the blood stream.

PEMF creates a magnetic field that causes the ion pump to activate, which improves the metabolic rate of each cell. Specifically for the equine market, an innovative blanket has been designed that is used to deliver pulsed electromagnetic field therapy to a horse in a portable manner without the need for additional equipment and in an easy fashion. 


How Does the Blanket Work?

Using an electrical pulsing charge has been proven to demonstrate benefits in both the human and animal fields. It has been found that a pulsing action is far more effective than a single continuous charge. Simple blankets with only a static magnet have been shown to provide little relief. In fact, in one study the magnetic field was measured 1/3 inch away from a static magnet blanket and the field was barely felt.

In order to signal cells, a portable battery operated within the PEMF blanket is fitted with 10 coils securely fastened into the lining of the blanket. Each coil acts as a large pulsing magnet, and when the battery current is directed through it, it can be felt up to around 15 inches away. This ensures the pulse reaches through the muscles and joints of the horse, stimulating all the troublesome areas. Each session should last around 30 minutes, and although consecutive treatments are required, results can be seen within a few days.

How Does this Affect the Horse?

 The coils in the blanket are distributed in the most effective pattern to combat the most commonly troubled areas where injury, joint pain and arthritis are most likely to be found — across the withers, back, shoulders, stifles and hindquarters. When the pulsed magnetic field triggers changes within the cells of the body, this improves blood supply that increases oxygen pressure. This activates and regenerates damaged or dormant cells, aids in calcium transport that increases absorption of calcium in bones and improves the quality of cartilage in joints.

For horses that are not unwell or have just completed work and are in need of a pick-me up, PEMF is thought to relax the horse, reduce aches and pains and improve the general wellness. Where a horse is suffering from an injury, PEMF is thought to aid faster healing and provide improvement of symptoms of metabolic disorders and joint complaints.

The good news is that it is non-invasive and relaxing for the horse, and can be carried out by anyone at the barn without the need for a professional. However, the system is costly. If you find the benefits are significant, you could consider splitting a blanket cost between your barn-mates so all the horses have use of it. If it reduces pain and improves well-being, the savings in other areas could make it a worthwhile investment.

*Images ccourtesy of B.Summers