Vibration therapy has been gaining popularity in horses, claiming benefits such as improved circulation and lymphatic drainage, promoting healing, increasing hoof growth rate and increasing bone density.
In whole body vibration (WBV) therapy the body is subjected to low frequency vibrations. The horse stands on a plate which is set to vibrate, typically at a frequency of up to 50 times a second.
Studies have investigated the value of whole-body vibration therapy in horses. So far, researchers have found that horses generally tolerate the treatment well and appear relaxed, but results have shown little evidence of physiological benefits.
Recent reports have described positive effects of WBV on hoof growth and cross-sectional area and symmetry of the multifidus muscle in the thoracolumbar spine.
One study1, by Bart Tom Halsberghe, looked at the effect of WBV on hoof growth.
Ten horses were included in the study. They were treated with WBV for 30 min, twice daily, five days a week, for 60 days in addition to their regular exercise routine. Halsberghe assessed hoof growth by measuring from the hairline down to a horizontal groove in both front feet. He took measurements at 30-day intervals, starting 30 days before the start of treatment (WBV) until 60 days after treatment finished.
He found a significant increase in hoof growth after 30 days WBV and after 60 days WB, although the increase occurred mainly during the first 30 days of treatment. There was no prolonged effect on hoof growth rate after the WBV treatment finished. x
A second study2, using the same group of horses, looked at the effect of whole-body vibration on the cross-sectional area (CSA) and left to right symmetry of the multifidus muscles at four points along the lumbar spine.
Halsberghe found a significant increase in multifidus muscle CSA at all points after 30 and 60 days of WBV. The multifidus muscles were also significantly more symmetrical. He also reports a statistically significant improvement in left-right symmetry of the multifidus muscles after 60 days of WBV treatment.
He concludes: “These results indicate that whole body vibration can be used as a non-invasive, safe and non labor-intensive therapeutic modality to accelerate hoof growth in the horse.”
“WBV may be a valuable alternative to dynamic mobilisation exercises when an increase in size and improvement in left to right symmetry of the m. multifidus is sought.”
For more details, see:
1) Effect of two months whole body vibration on hoof growth rate in the horse: A pilot study
Bart Tom Halsberghe
Research in Veterinary Science (2018) 119, 37-42.
2) Whole body vibration affects the cross-sectional area and symmetry of the m. multifidus of the thoracolumbar spine in the horse.
Halsberghe, B.T., Gordon-Ross, P., Peterson, R.
Equine Veterinary Education (2017) Vol 29, pp 493-499