There are plenty of products on the equine market with rather impressive price tags which make very ambitious claims about the results they can achieve. Although I am hesitant to make generalised assumptions, one of my biggest concerns is how rarely there is published evidence available to back up the claims made by these products. As with everything in life there is an element of personal experience and positive reinforcement; if you used it for one horse and it worked, then you are likely to use it again. The question really comes when we start examining whether the interventions, feed supplements and products we use on our horses can produce repeatable and reliable effects time after time.
One example which got me thinking about these issues were the products that are available for rehabilitation of injuries through supposed manipulation of infrared radiation (IR). The theory is that the materials used reflect the horses natural radiation back onto itself and since IR is known to increase circulation it is therefore inferred that it is beneficial for healing muscular, tendon and ligamentous injuries. In sports medicine for humans IR lamps are often used to treat sports injuries with plenty of evidence to back up their use so I do not deny therefore it may well be beneficial in aiding a horse’s recovery from injury, but what I question is whether equipment which does not provide an external source of IR is able to do this. How replicable would results be if a study were to be undertaken? These issues are something I touched on in my previous blog In search of the truth about joint supplements, but since writing that piece I have seen endless areas of equine care which are not backed up with appropriate research and evidence.
The closing comment to these sorts of discussions is what harm can it do? A vital point, and one which I duly take note of, however if I am going to shell out over £200 on a rug I would like a little more than, “well it won’t do any harm”.
I often use products which have limited or no evidence for their use, both on myself and on Archie, and this blog is not here to say that I feel these products should not be used, I merely propose that we ask the question. Be inquisitive, question the status quo, and one day the equine world might start answering.