Despite numerous studies, a cohesive explanation of how either pulsed magnetic therapy or static magnets exert their effects remains elusive. Increased circulation is a favorite claim, but it is debatable (see sidebar). It is also important to realize that, while tissues need a healthy blood supply to heal, more is not necessarily better — and sometimes it’s worse.
Magnetic therapy has two distinct types: Pulsed electromagnetic field units (PEMF), which operate off of a battery pack or electricity, and static magnets, like household magnets.
PEMF therapy has gained FDA approval as a therapy for the treatment of fractures that do not heal and appears to exert a variety of effects on tissues. The potential effects of static magnets are less well-defined.
In this article, we will dispense with the debate about how or why a particular product may work and focus on the bottom line — whether or not we saw any effect.
The first horses we tried on magnetic therapy for foot pain had disappointing results, which is why we extended the study. After more trials, our results weren’t much better.
Three out of four horses with modifying pain from ring bone responded to static magnets. Response to therapy was easily confirmed by taking the boots off. Within a few days, all symptoms would return then disappear again when the boots were reapplied. Best results were obtained when leaving the boots on as long as possible during the day. The horse that did not respond was a senior with advanced ring bone.
With navicular/heel-pain syndrome, response was obtained with PEMF therapy. When using the static-magnetic bell boots, one horse with navicular disease showed no response. One with probable navicular disease did respond well and another with heel pain also responded positively to some products.
Pain originating from the bottom of the feet showed no response to either therapy. We even tried making a therapeutic boot by placing magnetic cards against the horse’s sole, securing them with a hoof pad and placing the whole assembly inside a boot. There was no effect.
We did notice the bell boots that were effective for ring bone and heel-pain syndrome were those that fit snugly and had magnets positioned so that contact was made with part of the pastern and/or the coronary band. Boots where magnets contacted only the hoof wall were ineffective.
Products And Responses
PEMF and Foot Problems: We extended our evaluation of the electrotherapy offered by the Impulse Combo II ($1,850) and the model 3000 Bio-Pulse unit for foot pain.
The Respond unit is a single-leg-treatment version of the Bio-Pulse blanket/ attachment system we tested before. It is a better choice for isolated lower-leg treatments than the entire blanket and operates similarly.
Clearly positive responses were seen in early ring bone and heel-area pain with both units. A horse with quarter cracks and old laminitis was slightly improved but still lame. Sole-area pain did not respond.
As in the previous study, the Bio-Pulse unit had the advantage of incorporating the coils into a wrap, which was better tolerated by the horses. The free-standing coils of the Combo II spooked some horses and were much more vulnerable to damage if the horse became restless. Respond Systems Model 3000 Bio-Pulse Cordless Blanket w/options blanket $3,595, hock boots $490, leggings $565, legs w/hooves $665, neck $795, single-leg-treatment unit $895 (lease $245/3 months).
Equine Magnetic Therapy Bell Boots: The EMT bell boots provided an impressive success story. This was a 19-year-old Quarter Horse gelding with ring bone and probable navicular who had an established extremely stiff, stilted and short gait in front.
With the EMT bell boots, he had a dramatic improvement in his way of going up front that disappeared just as noticeably when the boots were removed. It improved again when they were restarted.
We also had obvious improvement in gait when they were used on another horse with ring bone and in relief of heel pain. No improvement was seen when trying them on a horse with chronic severe laminitis and two others with sole tenderness. The EMT boots are durable and conform well to the foot/pastern. The EMT fetlock boots from our first trial again performed well in terms of pain relief in cases of sesamoiditis, osselets, synovitis and an old intra-articular fracture of a fetlock. Bell boots $74/pair, fetlock/pastern $169/pair or $99 each.
Tectonics: The Tectonics boots (containing 22 small magnets) are well made of a soft, breathable fabric. The bell boot also has a high extension that provides magnetic contact with the front of the pastern. We had positive response to the bell boot on a horse with early ring bone and heel-pain syndrome but a negative with advanced ring bone. Two horses with sole pain and another with heel-pain syndrome did not respond.
The ankle/tendon boot (contains 30 magnets) fits extremely well and includes the entire ankle, a feature we especially liked since many horses with tendon/ligament problems have involvement at the level of the ankle as well. There was no response with an old tendon injury but a dramatic response in a case of sesamoiditis and in an annular ligament injury, which also resulted in decreased edema. Another horse with a flexor and check ligament strain had the ankle/tendon wrap applied five days after the injury with equivocal results. Variable responses may have been related to whether or not the magnets happened to be positioned directly over the areas. Bell boots $99/pair, athletic boots $145 each or $270/pair.
Equine Magnetic Solutions: These bell boots are made of a flexible but durable polymer and stay on the horse extremely well. The large rectangular magnets cover a significant surface area. They were tested on horses with early ring bone, heel-pain syndrome, quarter cracks, old laminitis and sole pain. The early ring bone responded the best, with a clearly improved gait. Some improvement in heel pain was noted, although not as dramatic. Pain from quarter cracks, old laminitis and tender soles did not respond. Response was equivalent to that obtained from the EMT products. The ankle wrap proved helpful to a horse with an annular ligament injury in the fetlock, giving obvious pain relief as well as a reduction in swelling. If you have a horse who is rough on his boots or will wear them during turnout, this is probably the boot for you. Otherwise, the stiff price is probably not worth it. Bell boots $165/pair; ankle wrap $95.
Magnet Relief: These durable fabric bell boots also have an extension over the pastern with three small circular magnets in the area of the pastern/coronary band and 12 positioned in six compartments around the hoof. One horse with early ring bone showed moderate improvement. Bell boot $125/pair.
Natural Vibrations Bell Boot and Ankle Bracelet: This manufacturer makes no claim for these boots regarding their use in treatment of actual problems (although their literature includes testimonials from users stating they had helped with specific problems). They state they are designed to fit loosely and move with the horse, interacting with his own magnetic field. Our focus was on improved function with known chronic problems, and we saw no effect with this product. Bell boots $54.95/each, ankle bracelet $29.99/each.
The Magnetic Force: These light weight, flexible, PVC bell boots have the magnets exposed on the interior of the boot, sitting inside indentations in metal clips around the circumference of the boot, approximately halfway down the wall. Although they appear similar to regular plastic turnout bell boots, we had several horses that were quite adept at getting them off, even in the stall. The magnets can also become dislodged and lost in the process. We tried these boots on navicular, heel pain, sole pain, ring bone and other problems with no success. Bell boots $95.
Magnetic NRG: These boots have a brushed-cloth exterior and a fabric-covered foam interior layer between the magnets and the horse, approximately ??-inch thick. They are attractive, durable and well-made, except that the Velcro strip securing the boot is completely detachable and not sufficient to keep the boots on the foot. We tried three times but each time the horse had them off within half an hour. The manufacturer states they have had reports of occasional problems with the Velcro not sticking but usually on older boots. While they report customers satisfied with the results within a time frame very similar to what we found, we feel the method of securing them is less than optimal. Bell boots $99/pair.
If you want to try magnets, check return policies or rent a unit first. Be critical of the results. Our positive results occurred within five days of the test horses wearing the boots for 10+ hours per day. PEMF was somewhat more effective than static magnets in relieving pain from ring bone/coffin-joint problems and heel-pain syndrome. However, neither had effect on pain originating from the soles. With static magnetics, Equine Magnetic Therapy and Equine Magnetic Solutions bell boots had the best overall pain relief and good prices.
Also With This Article
Click here to view "Our Conclusions About Magnetic Therapy."
Click here to view "Static Magnetic Blankets: We Approve."
Click here to view "Testing Methods."
Click here to view "Effective Treatment With PEMF Therapy."
Click here to view "The Circulation Debate."
Click here to view "Pain Is A Good Indicator."
Contact Your Local Tack Store Or:
Respond Systems, Inc
20 Baldwin Dr
Branford, CT 06405
IC Combo II
2390 West 2200 South
Ogden, UT 84401
Equine Magnetic Therapy
124 Lentz Road
Winlock, WA 98596
Toklat Originals, Inc
PO Box 488
Lake Oswego, OR 97034
950 Congress Avenue
Riviera Beach, FL 33404
Equine Magnetic Solutions
78 Nassau Drive
Great Neck, NY 11021
Magnet Relief Equine Products
2602 South Dixie Highway
West Palm Beach, FL 33401
Nikken Horse Blanket
The Stitching Horse
4422 Rt. 27
Kingston, NJ 08528
16736 W. Dale Lane
Sun City, AZ 85373
The Magnetic Force
PO Box 752
Westbury, NY 11590
State Line Tack
PO Box 935
Brockport, NY 14420