Evaluate the short-term effects of acupuncture on the dynamic manifestations of axial stiffness in steeplechase racehorses.
12 steeplechase racehorses presenting signs of axial stiffness during training.
Horses were randomly assigned to either an acupuncture treatment by an experienced certified acupuncturist (n = 6) or no treatment as negative controls (6). The horses’ locomotion was evaluated during training before treatment (D0) and 7 (D7) and 14 (D14) days after by their rider and trainer through a questionnaire. Additionally, the improvement of their dorsal flexibility 2 days after treatment was evaluated subjectively at the trot, free jumping at the canter was evaluated by expert clinicians, and free jumping at the trot was evaluated objectively via inertial measurement units.
Significantly more horses were improved on D7 and D14 in the acupuncture group (6/6) compared with the control group (1/5; P =.01) according to the scores set by the trainer and riders. Subjective evaluation of the dorsal flexibility also revealed a significant improvement (P = .04) for horses receiving the acupuncture treatment (median improvement score, 0.50 [reference range, 0.5 to 0.9]) compared with control horses (–0.25 [reference range, –0.5 to 0]).
Acupuncture may be an interesting nondoping strategy to improve clinical signs of axial stiffness and performance on steeplechase racehorses.