“The use of whole body vibration (WBV) therapy to increase bone density has proven successful in humans and rodents. High-frequency mechanical accelerations resulting from WBV have a strong osteogenic effect, increasing both quality and quantity of bone. Use WBV has been growing in the equine industry to positively impact the performance and health of the athletic horse, yet no research has been published to date to support such use. This project was developed to evaluate the impact of WBV on bone density in the stalled horses equal to that of a stalled group receiving light exercise.

Twelve mature horses of mixed breed and age were randomly assigned to either the control (CON, n=6) or treatment (VIB, n=6) group. Radiographs were taken of the left third metacarpal on day 0 for determination of bone mineral density. All horses were then subjected to 28-d of pasture turn-out (free choice exercise) to serve a baseline (d 0 to 28) with additional radiographs taken on d 28. Horses were then placed in stalls for an additional 28-d treatment period (d 28 to 56). The CON horses worked on a mechanical panel exerciser for 60 minutes, 6 days per week. The exercise protocol involved 17 min wal, 10 min trot, 3 min canter each direction. At no time did the speed of the exerciser exceed 8 m/s. VIB horses stood on a WBV platform (EquiVibe) set at 50 hertz for 45 min, 5 times per week. End radiographs were taken on d 56. Bone density of the third metacarpal was determined from the radiographs usin radiographic bone aluminum equivalency (RBAE) for all bone cortices and total bone mineral content (BMC). Changes in BMC were analyzed using a mixed model ANOVA with repeated measures.

Both groups increased BMC (P=0.02) from d 0 to d 28. No differences were observed in bone mineral content due to treatment in the medial (P = 0.98), lateral (P=0.93), dorsal (P=0.69), or palmar (P=0.90) cortices. BMC was not different due to treatment (P=0.17).

Contrary to previous research, we observed no loss in BMC due to stalling in horses receiving either light exercise or WBV. WBV maintained BMC similar to that of horses receiving light exercise and therefore should be considered when a horse must be stalled with exercise.”

Middle Tennessee State University, E. Smith, H.S. Spooner, J.C. Haffner administered the study which was published in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, May 2015.