Letters: 11/01

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Copper Is Indeed Low
Thank you for the information in “Minerals For The Performance Horse” (September 2001). I completely agree with you that existing National Research Council mineral level recommendations are too low, especially on copper.

Also, in February 1999, Dr. Eleanor Kellon wrote an editorial concerning the levels of ingredients in nutraceuticals. A glaring example is biotin. We have 800 mg. per pound of biotin in our product with a daily dosage of 50 mg. Some products contain 1,350 mg. per pound, but the daily dose contains 14.5 mg. per day.

The glucosamine problem is worse. Levels are listed at the high end per pound, but the dosage level is at 1,200 mg., when it should be at 2,500 mg.

-Dean Kratochvil
President, Kaeco Group, Inc.
Missouri

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Massage Omission
There is a glaring omission in your August 2001 article on back pain. It has been proven that massage is the most effective treatment for back pain for humans, yet there is not one mention of it in your article. Why the omission of the most obvious, least invasive, time-tested treatment' Incidentally, I am co-author of the book Healing Your Horse - Alternative Therapies.

-Craig Denega, B.A., L.M.T.
Pennsylvania

We agree there are controlled studies that evaluate the effect of massage on back pain in human subjects and show a positive effect on pain relief and disability. However, we feel it’s impossible to directly relate those human results to equine.

The most obvious reason is that equine massage therapy must be done with the animal standing, compared to a person lying flat and relaxed. You can’t obtain equivalent results in people if you attempt massage therapy when they are standing.

There is also a bit of an inbuilt skew in the human studies in that people assigned to massage as a primary means of therapy are usually those who have had significant degenerative arthritis, disc or nerve involvement ruled out. Massage can help these people symptomatically, too, by relieving the reflex muscle spasm and bracing caused by bone or nerve pain, but it will not have the same degree of effectiveness as it does in back pain that is primarily muscular in origin.

Low back pain syndrome in people often is caused by factors such as improper posture, improper lifting techniques and weakness/poor conditioning of the back muscles, while in our horses we see it primarily in highly conditioned animals and studies have demonstrated a high incidence of spinal abnormalities/degenerative conditions as the likely underlying cause.

Well-controlled human studies have also shown a psychological element in the response to massage therapy (Spine 2001, July 1;26(13):1418-24). People expect massage to be pleasurable and helpful and can be coached on how to relax and cooperate with the therapist. This isn’t to say the rseults are all “in their head.” The pain relief is real. However, a horse that is in pain is not likely to be this cooperative.

Therapeutic massage in the hands of someone who knows what they are doing and can put the horse at ease is likely to be useful. However, it may be difficult to find a qualified person and even their effectiveness will be hampered by the factors above. We also don’t think you can jump from the observation that massage is effective, even most effective, in some types of back pain in people to saying it is the most obvious treatment option for all back pain in horses.