Equine barrel racing is one of the most popular western events and continues to grow in numbers and financial worth, year after year. How can we help these horses as unique athletes in their own right?

In a sport where every millisecond counts, every advantage you can give your horse can be beneficial to cut those times down in the end. Relaxing and loosening the muscles are the goals of any session, but what do those muscles need? And what about those all-important powerhouse legs?

Lower Limb

The Coffin Joint  is an often overlooked part of the horse, until issues in the limb or performance arise. You may also know the coffin bone as Pastern 3 (P3), the Pedal Bone, or the Distal Phalanx. This bone is tucked inside the inner hoof walls and provides the shape, strength and connecting point of the hoof. This bone can be subject to a lot of stress during performance, especially in barrel racing. Inflammation and fractures are common in this area. The coffin joint takes a large amount of stress in the middle of turns that are taken and the acceleration coming out of those turns. 

In a study by Menarium et al. (2011), 63 barrel racers were submitted for lameness exams and radiographs. Of the horses that had been studied, 70% of them showed inflammation around the sesamoid bones, the bones that create the fetlock joint. This grouping of bones creates an anchor point for the Suspensory Ligament, which allows the joint to flex but then resume to the normal, relaxed position. The Coffin and the Fetlock joints show the greatest amount of injuries in barrel racers. Check out the photo below from Menarium et al. (2011) for a great visual regarding how the fetlock and coffin move and support the leg when coming out of the pocket of the barrel.

Extremities can be easily forgotten in PEMF sessions, but when working with performance animals it is very important to support these hard-working areas.

Hind End Muscles, Fibre Types and Nutrition Absorption

All motion at its basic level is muscle contraction. A contraction occurs when muscle fibres slide over each other, pulling the muscle together, making it shorter in length. These actions all require energy, and energy comes from different sources (depending on their size and purpose).

PEMF does not diagnose or treat any injury or disorder, but addresses underlying cellular dysfunction to stimulate and exercise the cells. By doing this, PEMF supports the body’s natural healing abilities.[1,2] This makes Pulsing a helpful supportive addition to any horse’s regular maintenance and wellness program. 

There are 3 different types of fibres, and they all differ in their energy sources, diameter, action, and method of metabolization. The muscles of the hind end are made mainly of Type IIB Fibres. This type of fibre breaks down sugars in the body to create the energy it needs to perform. Other fibres utilize the oxygen intake and different nutrients to create energy which tend to be more effective in creating larger stores of energy. Since The IIB Fibers don’t create as much energy, it is important to support their nutrient intake and metabolization of the nutrients so they can be utilized to their fullest extent.

When Pulsing, spend extra time at the hamstrings and the hind quarters of the horse. Keep it at a moderate to low PPS (pulses per second) since we are spending more time here. Lower intensity is always recommended for any acute soreness and when looking for more subtle support such as nutrient absorption.[3,7] You can also hit the digestive acupressure point LIV 13, which can be found on the second to last rib, about halfway down. Use your medium or small loops and butterfly them slightly over the area for 4 minutes using a moderate pulse.

About the Author:
Paige Chamerlik has spent the majority of her life on or around horses. She obtained her Bachelor’s of Science in Agriculture focusing in Equine Science from Murray State University. She partook in the collegiate equestrian team and acted on the boards of several local and national equine organizations. She has accumulated 10-years of teaching experience through riding classes and equine science classes through both Murray State and other organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America. Her passion for equine science and wellness transmits into her continued studies of equine biomechanics and has served her through breaking and training across multiple disciplines along with managing several custom care boarding facilities. Paige continues to pursue her love of studying and teaching through her roll in our customer training program.

Kirstie Waccholtz is the owner of 4UP Equine Therapy out of McFadden, Wyoming. Kirstie has a background in cutting horses, training, lessons, and management. She currently helps her husband with his full time Farrier business and raises draft horses and cattle on their ranch in Wyoming.

[1],[2],[3],[7] To locate the citations referenced here, visit info.pulseequine.com/research.

Additional Resources:

Menarim, B.C., Vasconcelos-Machado, V.M., Cisneros Alvarez, L.E., Carneiro, R., Busch, L., & L.C. Vulcano. 2011. Radiographic abnormalities in Barrel Racing Horses with Lameness referable to the Metacarpophalangeal Joint. JEVS 32:4 p 216-221