At Cryochaps, we pride ourselves on our science-led approach. Research, evidence and testing are the foundation of our product design and development. That is why our customers choose Cryochaps.
But what evidence do we use to support and inform our products?
Much of the research we use comes from studies involving horses. Some involve live horses, whilst others use substitutes. However, some of the research we use is from humans instead of horses. We are sometimes asked why this is: humans and horses are different species, so how can we justify using evidence from human research to support equine products?
This blog article explains why we may use human-based research in addition to evidence from equine and laboratory studies.
Equine-Based Research Doesn’t Always Exist
We cannot rely solely on equine-based research when developing our products. For a range of reasons, there are gaps in the research that mean we must either carry out additional research or extrapolate evidence from human or lab-based research.
When we do this, we aim to use comparable subjects and take into account the differences between our substitute and the equine equivalent.
One example of this is our article on why we recommend icing for no longer than 10-15 minutes. In this article, we looked at the human achilles tendon, which can be compared to the equine flexor tendons due to the structure, situation and the lack of blood supply. Whilst the two are not identical, we can make reasoned judgements based on the similarities.
One main reason why we cannot always use evidence gathered from horses is the ethical implications. At Cryochaps, we are passionate about equine welfare and wellbeing – that is why we do what we do! When carrying out any research project, we must consider the ethics. Any study that involves humans or animals is going to have ethical implications.
Invasive Studies and Consent
When conducting research around tendon temperatures, how can we measure the actual tendon temperature? The most accurate way to do this would be to place a temperature probe inside the horse’s tendon. This has very obvious ethical implications, and may not even be approved due to UK regulations around the use of animals in research.
Even if it were allowed, we as a company must consider our own position on animal welfare. We would never want to put an animal in harm’s way, so an experiment of this kind would contradict our mission and values entirely.
In addition to this, we have the issue of consent. Humans can consent to their involvement in experiments, including invasive procedures. Horses, on the other hand, cannot.
This does not mean to say that we can never use evidence from studies in live horses. When assessing the cooling effectiveness of the Exoskeleton, for example, we tested our product on a live horse. In this case, we used a temperature probe strapped to the horse’s leg to track the temperature on the surface of the leg during exercise.
Of course, even this study does not come without ethical considerations. We took care to ensure the horse was happy and comfortable with the temperature probe and the boots, and that it was not worked in such a way that would be likely to cause injury. Plus knowing what we do about the core tendon temperatures getting to levels that can cause cell death, trials were stopped when external skin temperatures reached levels above 38 degrees.
Accuracy & Reliability
Scientific studies should aim to produce accurate, reliable results. Often, this is difficult when working with animals! Variations in the subjects can make it difficult to know whether a result is down to the variant you are actually testing (e.g. method of leg cooling) or other factors.
If we take the example of a study into which equine leg cooling method is the most effective at bringing leg temperatures down, a study involving live horses could be affected by the following variables:
- The size of the horse – do bigger legs take longer to cool?
- The horse’s behaviour – are all the horses standing quietly, not waving legs around?
- The horse’s history – could the presence of old injuries or pre-existing conditions affect the results?
- Workload – have all the horses in the study done the same type and intensity of work beforehand?
- Weather conditions – heat, rain and wind could affect the results of the study
- Application – did the humans involved apply each leg cooling method properly?
Testing in a laboratory, perhaps using a dummy as a substitute for a live horse (e.g. using a flask full of warm water as a substitute for a horse’s leg) can provide a more accurate indication of the thing you are actually testing. In a laboratory setting, you can control the variables listed above, which should lead to more accurate results. Indeed it was this method that was used in the 2019 published paper to test Cryochaps against their competitors and other methods of cooling – https://www.wageningenacademic.com/doi/10.3920/CEP180052
Laboratory Testing as an Alternative
Some studies are carried out in laboratories, using substitute or dummy alternatives. A dummy cannot feel pain or distress, so in many cases it is far more ethical to use this in place of a real horse or human.
For example, we had our Exoskeleton tendon boots impact tested in a laboratory to test how effective they were at protecting the horse’s legs from strikes. It would not have been ethical to strap the boot to the horse’s leg and hit it with a hammer!
Use of Animals in Human Medical Research
When we question the use of evidence from human research studies in furthering our understanding of horses, why not turn the situation on its head? Can we use evidence gathered from animal-based research to support our understanding of humans?
Animal testing has long been used across the world, including in human medical research. This comes with obvious ethical concerns, and there is an ongoing debate around the use of animals in research.
However, animals are often used in research because of the ethical issues of using human subjects in certain experiments. For example, before approving human medical trials, tests are first carried out in animals to understand how safe and beneficial a drug is likely to be.
In this case, evidence is extrapolated from research in animals and applied to humans. Despite the differences between species, the research is still considered necessary and reliable enough to be of use.
Cryochaps: Horse Boots Based on Science
Our commitment to equine welfare extends to our research and product testing. We would never want to put an animal in harm’s way, so we will always seek non-intrusive, ethical research methods. This may include extrapolation of evidence from human research when it is comparable.
At Cryochaps, we design, develop and produce horse boots based on science. Our tendon and fetlock boots, ice boots and blue light mud fever boots are grounded in evidence from equine, human and laboratory research. Below, you will find some links to pages explaining the science behind our product range: