Exploring Training Bands for Improved Mobility in HorsesBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · June 8, 2017
Pain due to lameness, poor saddle fit, and a number of other factors can contribute to abnormal forces being placed on the muscles supporting the spinal column. As a result, muscle spasms may develop and negatively affect athletic performance. Following a veterinary examination to give the all-clear, many owners pursue physical therapy to help stabilize their steeds, and resistance training bands—just like those used in human athletic training programs—appear beneficial.
According to a recent study*, horses fitted with a commercially available resistance band training system experienced improved stability of the spinal column and associated muscles after only four weeks of use.
The training band system essentially looks like a saddle pad. The hindquarter training band extends from the back of the pad and encircles the hind limbs to “increase proprioception through stimulating a neuromuscular response, resulting in greater pelvic limb muscle activation.” The abdominal band, akin to a girth, reportedly increases recruitment of abdominal musculature during movement.
“Engagement of abdominal and hindquarter musculature is thought to encourage core postural muscle development and to improve dynamic stability of the back and pelvis, essential for ridden performance,” explained the researchers.
Use of the described bands significantly reduced roll and pitch (twisting) as well as side-to-side displacement in the thoracolumbar region. In addition, the normal up and down (dorsoventral) movement of the spine increased. Together these results prompted the researchers to conclude that “elastic resistance bands reduce mediolateral and rotational movement of the thoracolumbar region (increase dynamic stability) in trot.”
Unfortunately, no control group was included in the study to determine if the bands were primarily responsible for the observed improvements in locomotion or if the reported benefits were simply due to the actual exercise program itself.
“The spinal column is, in essence, a long row of joints. Among other things, the spine helps transfer forces from the hindquarters to forelimbs during movement. Those joints, just like knees, ankles, hocks, and stifles also need care and may benefit from nutritional supplements containing glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, hyaluronic acid, and omega-3 fatty acids,” advised Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (KER).
*Pfau, T., V. Simons, N. Rombach, et al. Effect of a 4-week elastic resistance band training regimen on back kinematics in horses trotting in-hand and on the lunge. Equine Veterinary Journal. In press.