Chiropractic effects on stride parameters and heart rate during exercise in sport horses
Abstract Background: Equine veterinarians performing chiropractic treatments are frequently asked to evaluate and treat sound horses to improve their performance and address pain associated with the axial skeleton. Studies describing the effects and mechanisms of chiropractic treatments in horses without overt lameness are scarce. Objectives: This study aimed to evaluate the effect of chiropractic treatments on stride rate, length, symmetry, heart rate, and rider-perceived quality of the ridden work in sport horses. Study Design: A blind randomized controlled trial with crossover design Methods: 38 horses ridden in the hunter-jumper discipline were enrolled. Exercise tests were recorded before and after chiropractic or sham treatment while horses were wearing a fitness tracker. Stride length, rate and symmetry, heart rate and the perceived quality of the ridden work were compared. Results: There was a difference in the qualitative assessment of the ridden work by riders between treatments (odds ratio 33.8, 95%CI [4.68, 458.71], p< 0.01). Stride length, rate, symmetry, and heart rate were not different between treatments. Main limitations: The quantitative outcomes measured may not be sensitive enough to detect changes that improve the ridden work. Terrain, weather, and rider were not standard across horses making small changes difficult to detect. Conclusions: Riders participating in a blind randomized controlled trial perceived a positive effect of chiropractic treatments on the quality of the ridden work. There were no differences in stride length, stride rate, stride symmetry or heart rate. The mechanisms, indications, and potential benefits of chiropractic treatments in horses need further study.