Horses are beloved by all kinds of people. Many owners share a special emotional connection with their horses. And there’s no relaxation quite like that of an afternoon spent in a stable tending to a beloved equine.
Through various forms of therapy, horses have effectively helped people to cope with difficulties like mental illness, physical disabilities, balance problems, and addiction. It’s only natural, then, that when we see our horses suffering from an injury or wound, we want to do everything in our power to help them heal.
As light therapy has risen in popularity for treatment of human medical conditions, many horse owners have found themselves wondering about the possible benefits of equine light therapy.
What Is Light Therapy?
Light therapy is a medical treatment that shines specific wavelengths of light on the body to produce specific intended effects. Light therapy uses light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to shine full-spectrum, red, green, or blue wavelengths of light onto different parts of the body. In humans, light therapy can be performed at home or in a medical setting such as a physician’s office or medical spa.
Light Therapy in Smaller Household Pets
Light therapy is a relatively recent treatment in animal science, but studies thus far have demonstrated positive results in household pets. We’ve examined its benefits in dogs and cats in past posts.
Red light therapy in particular has shown benefits for pets in a wide range of ways. When wavelengths of red light are harnessed and delivered to the cells of an animal’s body, collagen production increases, inflammation and swelling decrease, and wound healing accelerates.
How Does Light Therapy Help Equines?
Equine Light Therapy for Wounds
Most of the studies to date about equine light therapy have been for red light therapy and skin wound healing. Results are mixed at this time. As most horse owners know, horse skin wounds are notoriously slow to heal.
One small study evaluated the treatment of equine skin wounds with red and near-infrared (NIR) light therapy. Researchers compared two identical wounds on the same horse, one treated and one untreated.
After comparing size and degree of swelling, researchers concluded that light therapy had no significant effect on wound size or amount of swelling. The study even reported that healing time actually increased in the wounds treated with light therapy, though they couldn’t be sure light therapy was the cause.
Equine Light Therapy for Fertility
Blue light therapy has been used in horse breeding with positive results. Standard practice currently employs artificial lighting to extend the daylight hours and induce breeding season for mares earlier in the year. A study published in the Equine Veterinary Journal examined the effectiveness of the Equilume Light Mask in comparison with both the standard practice and no light therapy.
The light mask shines low-intensity blue light on a mare’s eye for a set time period each day to mimic the long daylight hours of summer. The study showed that the Equilume Light Mask worked as effectively as indoor artificial lighting to bring a mare to fertility, and more effectively than natural outdoor light.
The benefit of the mask is that mares can be maintained outdoors and still receive the benefit of prolonged light exposure.
Others studies also showed that the Equilume Light Mask improved foal birth weight by an average of over eight pounds and that it prevented prolonged equine gestation lengths.
Equine Light Therapy for Cancer
One study reported the successful use of photodynamic therapy to delay the recurrence of equine periocular squamous cell carcinoma. Photodynamic therapy involves the use of both light therapy and a photosensitizing drug.
In this study, photodynamic therapy significantly reduced the likelihood of tumor recurrence versus treatment with the traditional therapy.
Equine Light Therapy Safety Concerns
More studies are needed to determine the safety of equine light therapy. But to date, nothing suggests that light therapy has any significant negative side effects in horses.
Products Available for Equine Light Therapy
Because equine light therapy is an emerging science, there aren’t as many products available for horses as there are for humans and smaller pets. As research continues, more products will likely be developed. In the meantime, here are a couple of the products we found that you could consider for your horses.
The Photizo Vetcare is a handheld, preprogrammed red and near-infrared (NIR) light therapy device that claims to calm muscle spasms and increase blood vessel diameter to allow better circulation.
Equine light therapy pads from According to “Gospel” Equine Light Therapy come in four sizes and are designed to be used in various places on a horse’s body. The pads are flexible, so they can easily wrap around ankles, knees, hooves, or hocks. The pads can also be pressed against the neck, back, or larger joints.
Always Consult With Your Veterinarian
Equine light therapy is a relatively new field of research, though some companies already specialize in equine light therapy products like Equilume and Equine Light Therapy. Studies show mixed results, especially with wound healing. As such, you should always check with a veterinarian before using light therapy on your horses.
A veterinarian with experience in equine light therapy will be especially knowledgeable and can help you determine whether the light therapy treatment you’re considering is right for your horse.