When I first read about the Back on Track Therapeutic Infrared Blankets I understood the theory behind the technology but was not sure how well it would actually work. What I have found that is if the blanket and sheet are used correctly they can help considerably with muscle soreness, stiffness and arthritic issues.
How Does the Back On Track Therapeutic Blanket and Mesh Sheet Work?
The therapeutic blanket and mesh sheet are made with Welltex fabric which is a fabric that is infused with ceramic powder that helps reflect the horse’s infrared body heat back into the muscles. Studies and clinical trials have suggested that infrared heat penetrates deeper into the body than many other conventional forms of heat therapy.
What Is Far Infrared
Far Infrared light is produced by the sun. Do not confuse far infrared with UV rays, they are in different spectrum’s and are classified differently. Where UV light has shown to be damaging, there has not been any evidence that infrared rays are hazardous to health. Far infrared is also released in body heat. The theory of the Back on Track blankets is to trap the body heat and infrared thermal heat and help it penetrate back into the body. Sounds like science fiction? Don’t dismiss the theory. Studies conducted on people with painful joints and muscles have shown that the Welltex fabric does indeed reduce joint and muscle pain as well as help restore range of motion. Medical studies and trials are now underway world wide testing the effects of far infrared on the bodies of animals and people. One of the most promising studies suggests that far infrared saunas help to considerably reduce the muscle pain of fibromyalgia.
Far Infrared Effects On Horses
A small clinical trial conducted at the Strömsholm Riding School in Strömsholm Sweden, the Back On Track therapeutic blanket was put to a 6 week double blind test. Ten horses were selected that exhibited back pain. During the first 3 weeks five horses wore regular blankets and five wore the Back On Track therapeutic blanket. The horses were examined by a veterinarian and professional rider who did not know which horses wore normal blankets or which wore the therapeutic blankets. The horses were tested at a walk, trot and gallop and results were recorded. The two groups were then switched, the five who wore only normal blankets wore the therapeutic blanket and the other five wore only normal blankets, again for a 3 week duration. After the second exam, the results were compiled and showed that eight out of ten horses improved their gait at the trot, and seven out of ten at the gallop when wearing the Back On Track blankets. It was a small sampling but it produced impressive results.
Another independent study of a horse with back pain was conducted by veterinarian Laura A. Werner. Dr. Werner used thermographic imaging on an 11 year-old Irish Sport Horse used for eventing. The before theromgraph shows significant heat and swelling over the back and hip area. After two weeks of treatment with the Back On Track blanket the horse was thermographed again. The second picture showed a huge reduction in both heat and swelling.
How To Use The Back On Track Therapeutic Blanket
First, I want to stress that the therapeutic blanket is not a miracle cure. It must be used correctly and must be given time to work. If you have a horse that has suffered a recent muscle injury or is just beginning to show signs of stiffness and soreness your results will probably be noticeable faster. If you are using the blanket on an older horse or an old chronic muscle injury it will take time, sometimes up to 30 days to see a difference. Just something to keep in mind.
Back On Track strongly advises that the blanket be introduced gradually, do not take it out of the box, put it on and leave it for hours. Recent studies have shown that far infrared does affect the heart and circulatory system, namely increasing circulation. Though the results are preliminary and there have not been any published ill effects, you want to stay on the safe side.
Begin by putting the blanket on your horse for an hour a day for the first 2-3 days. Then increase that time to 2-3 hours per day for a few days. Gradually build it up to overnight if needed. You may find in the warmer months just an hour or two a day will do what is needed. During the winter’s cold weather you may need to leave it on at night to maintain results.
From my own experiences and researching this blanket, I think it would help most competition horses tremendously if it was used for an hour or two before riding. It would give your horse a head start on the warm up. I would also recommend using it after cool down for an hour just to help your horse relax. The blanket does not overheat your horse, however it may cause sweat spots where there is heat and inflammation.
My Review Of The Back On Track Therapeutic Horse Blanket
My experience with the Back On Track blanket has been with two horses that are massage clients.
The first is a fifteen year old quarter horse gelding who is used for team roping. Boss was ridden 6 days a week, most days just trail rides to keep him in shape. He was used in competition once or twice a week but was not used for roping practice.
Boss exhibited extreme body soreness when I first examined him. After 6 weeks of weekly treatments, he showed significant improvement but would still start off with stiffness. Once he was warmed up with slow loping then extended trotting in the arena, his movement was normal. However, the next morning after competition he would be extremely sore and stiff.
The owner read about the therapeutic blanket and decided to try it. He started off using it an hour a day before riding. Within 3 days he noticed a difference in Boss. When I worked on Boss 10 days after he started wearing the blanket, I noticed that his muscles were not as tight and inflamed, especially over the back and the hips. The owner increased the time Boss wore the blanket to 3 hours daily. After 6 months, Boss is was moving freely at the start riding, the stiffness mostly gone. He is still a little stiff the mornings after competition, but after 3 hours wearing his blanket, his pain seems to be gone and the stiffness is not noticeable. I have noticed a definite change in his overall muscle tone, much less inflammation and rigidity.
What made me a believer in the beneficial effects of the blanket was a 24 year old thoroughbred mare named Bella. Bella was a former racehorse whose career lasted 7 years. Once retired, she was ridden by the owners on trail rides and had 5 foals. When Bella was 23, the owner asked me if a monthly massage might help with some of the stiffness and muscle pain that Bella was beginning to exhibit. I started working on Bella in July and her monthly sessions seemed to help. However, once the cold weather and wind set in, Bella started showing signs of extreme muscle and joint pain. She stayed in her stall and paddock, and started loosing weight. A vet examination concluded that old age and arthritis were taking their toll. Not willing to part ways the owner started researching ways to help his old friend. Adaquan injections brought relief, but not enough. While researching on the Internet, the owner found the Back On Track blanket a decided to give it a try. He started Bella at 2 hours a day with the therapeutic blanket under her winter blanket gradually working her up to wearing the blanket all night within two weeks. An improvement was not seen until after a week of Bella wearing the blanket all night. During week 3, Bella started moving around more and ventured out her paddock into the pasture. Within 6 weeks, she started playing out in the pasture, and though her movements were slow and guarded she did not exhibit signs of extreme pain or stiffness. Bella will soon be 26 years old. Her face has greyed, her back is swayed and her lower legs have thickened, but Bella now happily spends her days out in the pasture with a couple of other “old girls” and has maintained her weight. She wears the fleece blanket at night during the winter and her mesh sheet at night during warm weather. I as well as her owner believe the therapeutic effects of the blanket have helped Bella maintain a good quality of life.
Granted my experience with the therapeutic blanket and mesh sheet is limited, but I do recommend it not only because of my research, but also because of the improvements I saw first hand in Boss and Bella!