Therapy accelerates racehorse performance
Louisville, Ky. - At least five of the 17 horses in this year's Kentucky Derby are relaxing on pins and needles of the therapeutic variety.
The horses are to receive acupuncture treatments, in the form of magnets, chiropractic adjustments, electrical muscle stimulation and herbal medications, prior to the race.
The alternative therapies are gaining support by a large percentage of racehorse owners and trainers. They contend such treatments can relax the tightly-wound thoroughbreds, improve muscle tone and flexibility and relieve pain.
A survey several years ago by the American Association of Equine Practitioners found half the organization's veterinary members either practiced alternative therapies or referred clients.
But plenty of skeptics still shudder at the idea.
The skeptical camp points to a review of research on the effects of equine acupuncture studied in 1998 by an AAEP committee, which reviewed nearly 90 studies. An interesting trend emerged, says Dr. Nat T. Messer, associate professor of equine medicine and surgery, University of Missouri, who chaired the committee.
"There were (only) 11 well-designed studies that fit the criteria for a good scientific study, and of those 11 studies, the results were equivocal as to whether there was any effectiveness from acupuncture. ...As you got into the less scientifically sound studies, the favorability rating went up. In other words, the worse the study, the more favorable it was toward acupuncture."