Purpose: To evaluate the effect of osteopathic treatment on a randomised population of working polo horses, against a control group. Limb symmetry kinematics in trot provided the measures for detecting change, with assessment at 48 hours and 2 weeks post-intervention.
Methods: 16 professional polo horses were selected for inclusion and randomly allocated to the treatment (n=8) or control (n=8) group. The treatment group received an osteopathic consultation, blinded from the researcher. The population was analysed pre-treatment, 48 hours, and 2 weeks post-treatment. Variables included medial-lateral limb deviation symmetry using inertial sensors fitted to each limb, and hoof-ground clearance symmetry, using 2 high-speed video cameras. Both methods of capture used an average of 3-4 strides for analysis and symmetry indices were used for interpretation of the medial-lateral symmetry measure.
Results: Significant improvements were demonstrated in hoof-ground clearance symmetry (p<0.05), and were maintained over 2 weeks (p<0.05) in the treatment group, with no significant change in the control group. No significant change was seen in the medial-lateral limb deviation symmetry measure for either group; however 75% of horses in the treatment group were identified to display a positive trend of improved limb symmetry (mean change 16.63%, range 6-33%).
Conclusions and future research: Results of this study demonstrate an improvement in the symmetry of gait of the horse following osteopathic treatment, using hoof ground clearance symmetry as the objective measure. This positive treatment effect was also shown to be maintained over a 2 week period. This blinded, controlled trial forms a foundation for a larger scale study with an increased sample size, multiple osteopaths and further control of variables, in order to develop a more reflective representation of the entire profession.