Using Magnets on Horses
By Heather Smith Thomas

Mary and Kenny Kimball (Ropes End Ranch, Bellevue, Idaho) are long-time horsemen who have worked with horses in many disciplines - from roping and racing to dressage. They also use magnetic therapy on themselves and their horses.

In explaining why magnets work to help heal an injury, Mary points out that "every cell in the body is magnetic. This is the energy of the earth and a very familiar energy source for our bodies, so the body responds to it readily. All we're doing by adding a magnet to an injured area or to a trigger point is accelerating the body's response to that energy source. Healing takes place more quickly because there's more interchange of toxins, oxygen and nutrients in the cell. Magnets seem to facilitate that, since we are 'energy' creatures," she says.

"If people realize there would be no such thing as electricity without magnets, they would also understand that there's no such thing as the body functioning properly without some kind of magnetism," explains Mary.

"The practical application with horses has been interesting because most people who are skeptical about magnets and the therapeutic benefits see this put on a horse and then realize the horse has no placebo effect - the horse has no idea about whether it works or doesn't; it just works. People can accept that more readily than when a person tries to tell them about it," she says.

"We've used magnetic therapy on everything from navicular lameness to sore muscles. With navicular lameness, we put magnets under the hoof pads, pointed upward, at the point of the frog. This seems to take care of discomfort in about 4 to 7 days and the horse goes sound again - with no 'bute' or medication. The magnets move that energy fluid out of the foot. The horse still has large openings in the navicular bones, if you x-ray them, but there's no inflammation, which is what causes discomfort," says Mary.

"We don't understand all we want to about magnets because no one can really explain the energy source, but we do know how they affect the body. It's been well documented in many studies, like double-blind placebo studies. Horse people are pretty easy to convince, however, because they see the way a horse responds. The horse is not a thinking being and doesn't know it is supposed to respond, so it either does or it doesn't. A lot of horse people have used magnets on their horses long before they used magnets on themselves," says Mary.

"We also have a magnetic horse blanket which seems to hit the trigger points along the spine or the meridian lines. There are several trigger points in this area that influence the whole body. Most magnetic blankets treat those areas, and the trigger points on the hips and shoulders. This greatly enhances the large muscle masses," she explains.

There are also applications on the lower legs. "For instance, we have an older school horse that has a lot of arthritic changes in his knees. We simply put splint boots on him, below the knee, with magnets in them, and we've found it helps immensely. He can walk into the barn crippled, and we put those on him, and 15 minutes later he jogs out of the barn sound. So it really does help a variety of conditions - not curing them, per se, but just increasing the comfort of the animal and increasing its years of usefulness. It's nice to know there's something simple we can do to help the horse, without having to get chemically involved with 'bute' or some other painkillers," she says.

"There are splint boots, galloping boots, bell boots, etc. that have room for magnets in them, and some companies sell these products with the magnets already incorporated into the boots. But some of these are limitedly effective because they're the old straight-line magnets. They are just straight lines (positive- negative, positive-negative) like a refrigerator magnet. Those are not very strong. Because of their design, the energy flow of the horse has to bisect at least 2 of them or it doesn't work at all. So if the energy flow is running parallel to those lines, you get very little effect, if any. If you turn it the other way, you get more effect, but they don't tell you that; you have to learn it."

Mary is a wellness consultant for a company that has an internationally patented triangle board design that uses "little equilateral triangles that touch each other. One is positive and the next one is negative. The all-over design has energy spikes ('steep field gradients' is the term they use when talking about magnetic energy), and the more deeply they penetrate, the more effective the magnet is. Straight line magnets have very little effect as far as penetration goes. So unless an injury is near the skin level, it's not going to help much," she says.

"Our magnets penetrate several inches into the body because of how they're designed. It's a harmless energy, however, it can go right through bone and muscle, much like the MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) machine which is much stronger. The smallest MRI machine is 25,000 gauss (the measurement of magnetic energy); the strongest magnet we use is 2000 gauss. Most of our products are 1000 or less. Many are 350 gauss, depending on where you are going to place them on the body; they are strong enough to help," says Mary.

They use human knee wraps on horses' hocks. "These have a hole in the center for the knee cap and it fits nicely over the hock. There's a certain amount of surface that's totally magnetic. There's another design that's very flexible and you can put it over the point of the hock, with the two straps that normally go around behind the knee, and attach it to itself. This works well on the face of the hock or on the back, depending on which way you want to turn it. In some cases, you might need to use some stretchy tape to keep it from slipping down," she says.

"We've incorporated magnetic strips wherever we need them on a horse, putting sticky Velcro tape on the back and putting them into polo wraps for night bandages. I recently used these on a warmblood mare that wrenched an ankle. She had some swelling one morning and I put a magnetic strip in a polo wrap on either side of that leg, and by the next morning it was fine - absolutely cold, with no more inflammation," says Mary.

"The magnets help to move the toxins out and bring the oxygen into that area, which is how the body helps heal itself. So this speeds up the healing. That injury could have taken a week to heal (it was hot and inflamed) but I was able to ride her in a clinic the third day. Having the products on hand and knowing how to apply them (which is pretty much common sense) and not being afraid to use them, can help the horses a lot," she says.

"People are coming up with new ways to adapt them for horses. The company makes knee wraps, elbow wraps, neck wraps, etc. for every part of the human body, and a lot of us in the horse business have requested they do more in the line of horse products. But so far the big market has been for people. So we have to adapt these to our horses and use our imagination."

She uses Professionals Choice splint boots because they are easy to put on and easy to add magnets. "They have an inner layer that's rubberized and separate from the padded area. We slit the top with a razor blade, where the pad section is (on the inside) and just slip a strip of the magnets in between the horse and the padding, facing toward the horse, just under the inner padding, and it works great," she says.

"There are companies that make products for our magnets to go into, but they are expensive. You can often use what you already have in your barn, putting magnets in bell boots, etc. We had a horse in Sun Valley that we were called on to help. It was a big dressage gelding, insured for $90,000. Due to improper shoeing he had such severe ringbone that the veterinarians thought he should be put down. The people who owned him didn't want to do that, and were willing to try anything. All we did was take Professionals Choice bell boots (big ones) and put 9 little dollar size magnets around the coronary bands and sewed them in, on each foot. In about a month the horse was traveling sound," says Mary.

The owner called her about 4 months later and said, "You're not going to believe this, but they took x-rays and the ringbone is gone! He passed the vet exam for a $90,000 insurance policy, with no reservations!"

Mary says a person doesn't know what magnets might do for a horse until you try them. "I'm not going to say they will help in every situation, but it's been well known for a long time that they have the ability to help the body move calcium from where it is not needed and into where it is needed," she says.

"Most people are familiar with magnet use in healing bones, like in little dogs. For some reason, their bones don't heal well when they break. You can apply magnets to the broken leg and in a matter of weeks it is totally healed; otherwise it might not heal for months. Magnets have the ability to do that with calcium and are also very helpful with things like arthritis and ringbone."

She's had two instances in which people have called her to ask about help with bone spurs on their heels. "These are very painful. In both cases I told them that magnetic insoles in their shoes would help their comfort level. They both called me back months later to tell me the heel spurs were gone. That's all they did different, was wear the magnets in their shoes," she says.

"This is a highly beneficial and harmless source of energy, but on the body when there are abnormalities it can be sometimes astounding. I especially feel sorry for navicular horses, and magnets have often helped them. These older horses have a lot of talent. They can really share a lot with young riders, who can learn so much from them. They are often put down because of their discomfort, but 2 little $18 magnets under the pads in their feet could give them several more years of usefulness, without resorting to 'bute'. They don't have to endure the side effects (ulcers, liver damage, etc.) that can occur with drugs."

"For horses that don't haul well in a trailer, we've used magnetic products to give them the feeling of well being. We've hauled old roping horses from Idaho to Oklahoma, arthritic horses that usually can't walk when they get there. With these products, however, they bounce right out of the trailer. There have been so many experiences like that. I hate to make generalizations, because every horse is different, but these are some of the ways we've used magnets over the years."

Magnets can be quite beneficial to horses. When one considers that magnets provide the gentle and natural energy of the earth, why wouldn't they be?

About the author:

Heather Smith Thomas is the author of thirteen books including "Storey's Guide to Raising Horses", and her latest, "Storey's Guide to Training Horses". She has written more than 6,000 articles for hundreds of publications, including "Chronicle of the Horse", "Equus", "Quarter Horse Journal", "Horse & Rider", and "Horse Illustrated". At their cattle ranch in rural Idaho, Heather and her husband have bred, raised and trained horses for nearly 40 years.