Monday, March 20, 2023

Could high intensity laser help in the treatment of bone spavin?

(c) Silviu-florin Salomia
 High intensity laser therapy (HILT) uses high-powered (Class IV) lasers that emit light in the
infrared range, to deliver light energy to the affected area, The goal is to reduce inflammation and pain, and promote healing.

Some studies have suggested that HILT may be effective in treating bone spavin, a condition characterized by degeneration and inflammation of the hock joint in horses.


To investigate this possibility, researchers in Poland, used HILT in clinical cases of bone spavin referred to the Department of Surgery in Wroclaw University of Environmental and Life Sciences.


Paulina Zielińska, Karolina Śniegucka, Zdzisław Kiełbowicz describe their findings in a report published in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science.


For the study, horses were required to exhibit hindlimb lameness that was aggravated by flexion of the limb but improved with anaesthesia of the tarsometatarsal joint. They also needed to show radiographic evidence of hock changes consistent with bone spavin. None of the horses had received any treatment for spavin in the previous six months. Eleven horses met the criteria for inclusion.


A course of treatment consisted of 10 HILT sessions over a two-week period.


Using the American Association of Equine Practitioners 5-point lameness scale, the researchers evaluated the severity of lameness before and after treatment. They found that four horses (36%) improved by 2 lameness grades, four (36%) improved by 1 lameness grade, and three horses (28%) showed no improvement.  Of the horses that did improve after HILT, three were reported to be sound at the post-treatment examination. 


In terms of the limb flexion (spavin) test, 5 horses (45%) showed improvement after treatment, while 6 horses (55%) maintained the same spavin test grade as before treatment. However, all horses still exhibited lameness following the limb flexion (spavin) test.


The researchers' findings suggest that HILT can be safely used for horses with bone spavin, as it helps to decrease joint pain and lameness. However, it appears to have limited effectiveness in reducing the response to a flexion test in the short term.


Although it's still too early to definitively determine whether HILT is a viable alternative for managing joint pain in horses with bone spavin, the researchers note that the initial results are promising enough to warrant further investigation.


For more details, see:


Paulina Zielińska, Karolina Śniegucka, Zdzisław Kiełbowicz,

A Case Series of 11 Horses Diagnosed with Bone Spavin Treated with High Intensity Laser Therapy (HILT),

Journal of Equine Veterinary Science,

Volume 120,



ISSN 0737-0806,


Friday, March 17, 2023

Investigating injuries in British horse riders on public roads

(c) Sitikka
Female equestrians and younger riders are more likely to be injured in incidents involving horses on
public roads in Great Britain according to recent research.

 Horses and road vehicles are not ideal partners and can be a dangerous combination. In any confrontation between a horse and a vehicle, the horse and rider are at a significant disadvantage, and usually come off worst.


In England and Wales, (but not Scotland) equestrians are only permitted to use public off-road routes that have been specifically designated for horse use. This means that only a limited number of public off-road routes are available for horse riders to use. Consequently, they often find themselves riding on public roads.


A study, led by Danica Pollard for the British Horse Society, looked at the human injuries resulting from interactions between ridden horses and other road users on public roads in Great Britain. The work is published in the Journal of Safety Research.


The researchers extracted data from the Department for Transport (DfT) database on road incidents involving ridden horses, recorded by the police between 2010 and 2019. The records were analysed (using multivariable mixed-effects logistic regression modelling) to identify factors that were associated with severe or fatal injuries.


The data included 1,031 injury incidents involving ridden horses, involving 2,243 road users. 


Analysis showed that 81% of casualties were female, 84% were horse riders and 25% were 20 years old or younger. Horse riders accounted for 238/267 serious injuries and 17/18 fatalities. 


Vehicles most often involved in serious or fatal injuries were cars (53.4%) and vans (9.8%).


Other points to emerge were that the risk of severe or fatal injury increased with increasing road user age, and on roads with higher speed limits.


The researchers also found that the risk of severe or fatal injury was higher among older road users and on roads with higher speed limits.


They conclude: “Improved equestrian road safety will largely impact females and young people as well as reducing risk of severe/fatal injuries in older road users and those using modes of transport such as pedal-cycles and motorcycles. 


“Our findings support existing evidence that reductions in speed limits on rural roads would help reduce the risk of serious/fatal injuries.” 



For more details, see: 


Cars dent, horse riders break: Analysis of police-recorded injury incidents involving ridden horses on public roads in Great Britain.

Danica Pollard, John Duncan Grewar.

Journal of Safety Research (2023), Vol 84, pp 86-98

Thursday, March 16, 2023

The world’s first horse riders

Excavations in Malomirova, Bulgaria (c) Michal Podsiadlo

New evidence suggests that people were riding horses as much as 5000 years ago.

The origins of horseback riding are still unknown. Research suggests that horses were domesticated for their milk around 3500 to 3000 BCE. However, this does not conclusively demonstrate that they were being ridden at that time.

Now, researchers have unearthed evidence of horse riding by analysing the remains of human skeletons discovered in ancient burial mounds dating back 4500-5000 years.


The earthen burial mounds, or “kurgans”, were associated with the Yamnaya culture. The Yamnaya people were nomadic herders who primarily raised cattle and sheep, and they migrated to present-day Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Serbia from the Pontic-Caspian steppes. This region is a vast area of grasslands and semi-arid plains situated in Eastern Europe and Western Asia, spanning from the Danube River in the west to the Ural Mountains in the east, and from the Black Sea in the south to the Volga River in the north. The area encompasses parts of modern-day Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, Romania, Moldova, and Georgia.


According to a study published in Science Advances, researchers have identified five Yamnaya individuals, dated from 3021 to 2501 BCE, from burial mounds located in Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary. These individuals displayed changes in bone structure and distinct pathologies that are typically associated with horseback riding. The study authors note that these individuals are the oldest known humans to be identified as riders to date.


“Horseback-riding seems to have evolved not long after the presumed domestication of horses in the western Eurasian steppes during the fourth millennium BCE. It was already rather common in members of the Yamnaya culture between 3000 and 2500 BCE”, says Volker Heyd, Professor of Archaeology at the University of Helsinki and a member of the international team, which made the discovery.


“We studied over 217 skeletons from 39 sites of which about 150 found in the burial mounds belong to the Yamnayans” explains Martin Trautmann, Bioanthropologist in Helsinki and the lead author of the study. 


Deducing activity patterns from human skeletons can be a complex process. According to Trautmann, there are no specific physical traits that can definitively indicate a particular occupation or behaviour. “Only in their combination, as a syndrome, symptoms provide reliable insights to understand habitual activities of the past,” he says.


The research team used a set of six diagnostic criteria as indicators of riding activity (the so-called “horsemanship syndrome”):

1. Muscle attachment sites on pelvis and thigh bone (femur);

2. Changes in the normally round shape of the hip sockets;

3. Imprint marks caused by pressure of the acetabular rim on the neck of the femur;

4. The diameter and form of the femur shaft;

5. Vertebral degeneration caused by repeated vertical impact;

6. Damage that typically can be caused by falls, kicks or bites from horses.


Altogether, out of the 156 adult individuals of the total sample at least 24 (15.4%) can be classified as 'possible riders', while five Yamnaya and two later as well as two possibly earlier individuals qualify as 'highly probable riders'. 


Overall, after analysing the skeletal remains of 156 adult individuals in the sample, the researchers were able to classify at least 24 (15.4%) as "possible riders". In addition, they identified five Yamnaya individuals, two later individuals, and two possibly earlier individuals as "highly probable riders".


“The rather high prevalence of these traits in the skeleton record, especially with respect to the overall limited completeness, show that these people were horse riding regularly”, Trautmann states.


“We have one intriguing burial in the series” remarks David Anthony, emeritus Professor of Hartwick College USA and also senior co-author in the study.


“A grave dated about 4300 BCE at Csongrad-Kettöshalom in Hungary, long suspected from its pose and artifacts to have been an immigrant from the steppes, surprisingly showed four of the six riding pathologies, possibly indicating riding a millennium earlier than Yamnaya. An isolated case cannot support a firm conclusion, but in Neolithic cemeteries of this era in the steppes, horse remains were occasionally placed in human graves with those of cattle and sheep, and stone maces were carved into the shape of horse heads. Clearly, we need to apply this method to even older collections.”


The researchers recommend conducting additional research to ascertain the main purpose of horseback riding among the Yamnaya people. It is unclear whether riding was primarily used for convenience in a mobile pastoral lifestyle to enable more efficient cattle herding, as a means of swift and far-ranging raids, or simply as a symbol of social status. Further investigation could shed more light on the role of horseback riding in Yamnaya culture and its impact on their way of life.


For more details, see:


First bioanthropological evidence for Yamnaya horsemanship

Martin Trautmann, Alin Frînculeasa, Bianca Preda-Bălănică, Marta Petruneac, Marin Focşǎneanu,  Stefan Alexandrov, Nadezhda Atanassova, Piotr Włodarczak, Michał Podsiadło, János Dani, Zsolt Bereczki, Tamás Hajdu, Radu Băjenaru, Adrian Ioniță, Andrei Măgureanu, Despina Măgureanu, Anca-Diana Popescu, Dorin Sârbu, Gabriel Vasile, David Anthony, Volker Heyd.

SCIENCE ADVANCES (2023) Vol 9, Issue 9

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Horses can distinguish between men and women based on the tone of their voice.

Recent research suggests that domesticated horses can use multiple senses, such as vision, and hearing, to identify human males and females. 

Several studies have shown that horses can recognise humans by associating their voice with their physical appearance. This ability to recognize a person, or object, based on information from multiple senses, such as sight, sound and smell, is known as “cross-modal recognition”. 

“To date, it remains unknown whether horses that are regularly in contact with humans are able to cross-modally recognize women and men. Thus, we sought to evaluate this ability in the current study.” wrote Chloé Gouyet and colleagues in the article published in Scientific Reports. 

“This study aimed to investigate whether horses are able to associate a woman’s voice with a woman’s face and a man’s voice with a man’s face, using a preferential looking paradigm.” 

In equine research, the “preferential looking paradigm” is often used to investigate whether horses have visual preferences for different stimuli. For example, researchers may present horses with pairs of images, such as a natural pasture scene set against a man-made environment, or an angry face compared with a happy face. By measuring which of the pair of images the horse spends more time looking at, researchers can infer the horse's preference. 
The researchers explain: “We simultaneously presented two videos of women and men’s faces, while 
playing a recording of a human voice belonging to one of these two categories through a loudspeaker.” 

This procedure was repeated in six trials. The videos changed at each trial, so each horse saw six different women and six different men. “Our hypothesis was that horses would look preferentially at one of the videos depending on the vocal stimulus.” 

Analysis of the results showed that the horses looked significantly more towards the man’s face when hearing the male voice; and towards the woman’s face when hearing the female voice. The findings suggest that horses can associate women’s voices with women’s faces and men’s voices with men’s faces.

“Further investigation is necessary to determine the mechanism underlying this recognition, as it might be interesting to determine which characteristics horses use to categorize humans” the researchers suggest.

“These results suggest a novel perspective that could allow us to better understand how horses perceive humans.” 

 For more details, see: 

 Horses cross-modally recognize women and men Chloé Gouyet, Monamie Ringhofer, Shinya Yamamoto, Plotine Jardat, Céline Parias, Fabrice Reigner, Ludovic Calandreau & Léa Lansade 
Scientific Reports vol 13, 3864 (2023) 

Thursday, March 09, 2023

Funding available for Equine Assisted Services research

(c) Photojogtom

Proposals for research grants are invited for projects to investigate the impact of Equine Assisted Services (EAS).

Horses and Humans Research Foundation (HHRF), have announced the availability of up to $75,000 in research funding. and are now inviting applications.

HHRF specify that grant applications should include rigorous research proposals measuring the impact of the horse-human interaction on the wellbeing of the human participant including but not limited to the social, physical, cognitive, mental, and/or spiritual elements of the whole person.  


“All proposals undergo a four-tier review process completed by the Scientific Advisory Council. Preference will be given to investigators with solid credentials and research experience. The maximum award is $75,000 for up to two years. The winning proposal will have scientific merit, scientific and clinical significance, and relevance. “


Deadline for submission of proposals is Friday, May 26, 2023


Information for applicants, including the recently updated application and review guidelines, previously funded projects, and more are available at:

Wednesday, March 01, 2023

Compression therapy boosts lymphatic flow

Researchers from North Carolina State University have taken technology aimed at helping humans suffering from lymphedema and developed a medical device to aid horses suffering from the same condition. 

 There is a fine balance between fluid leaving the blood vessels and being taken up by the lymphatic system, which transports it from the tissues back to the bloodstream. Lymphedema occurs when that balance is disturbed and there is an accumulation of lymphatic fluid in the tissues of the limb. 

In a pilot study, Drew Koch and colleagues, found that the device, called the EQ Press, was successful in moving fluid up the limbs and into the lymph nodes. Its developers suggest it could lead to relief for horses with chronic conditions, as well as with temporary swelling due to injury or inactivity. 

“Across the board, horses are predisposed to lower limb swelling,” says Lauren Schnabel, associate professor of equine orthopaedic surgery at NC State and co-author of the study. “Lymphatic flow is driven by muscle contractions that circulate lymph fluid through the lymphatic system – horses are prone to lymphatic issues because they have very little musculature in the lower limbs.” 

The severity of the condition can vary widely – from temporary swelling due to restricted mobility, to lymphangitis caused by infections that can scar the lymphatic system. Treatment is often frustrating, but may include cold water, ice, bandaging and encouraging exercise. 

“Humans suffer from the exact same type of lymphedema horses do, but the difference is that human medicine has a very effective treatment option – pneumatic compression devices,” Schnabel says. “So, we wanted to create a horse-specific version of those devices and see if it would be similarly effective.”

Working closely with a company that manufactures human pneumatic compression devices, Schnabel developed the EQ Press in collaboration with former NC State veterinary student Irina Perdew. 

In the study, six healthy thoroughbreds were injected with a tracer isotope – a Tc-99m labelled sulfur colloid - at the coronary band in the front legs. The colloid is taken up and excreted through the lymphatic system. A specialised camera followed the movement of the isotope up the lymphatic system and into a lymph node in the upper limb, a process known as lymphoscintigraphy. 

Each horse underwent lymphoscintigraphy twice – once with treatment by the compression device on the front limbs and once without – randomized between treatment and control. 

In all EQ Press treated horses, the camera showed the tracer isotope moving from the lower limb to the lymph node in the upper limb within a 60-minute window. Of the control horses, only one showed that the tracer isotope was able to reach the lymph node in the same time. 

Overall, EQ Press treated horses had significantly accelerated lymphatic flow compared to untreated horses, recorded as both time for the marker to move out of the lower limb and time for it to reach the lymph node in the upper limb. Schnabel and the research team found the results encouraging and want to determine whether pneumatic compression treatment will be as helpful for horses as it is for humans. 

“Now we have compelling evidence that pneumatic compression treatments can accelerate lymphatic flow in healthy horses,” Schnabel says. “Our next step is to study the effectiveness of the EQ Press for treatment of horses with medical conditions such as lymphedema.” 

The open-access study is published in the American Journal of Veterinary Research. 

Schnabel is co-founder and chief medical officer of Vetletics, Inc., the company that manufactures the EQ Press. 

For more details, see: 

Pneumatic compression therapy using the EQ Press accelerates lymphatic flow in healthy equine forelimbs as determined by lymphoscintigraphy 
Drew Koch, Lauren Schnabel, Justin Reynolds, Clifford Berry. 
American Journal of Veterinary Research (2023)