Helping Horses Heal with Magnetic Therapy (PEMF) – Interview with Christina Kupper

Click the video above to watch the entire interview with Christina Kupper.

PEMF, FES, acupuncture, chiropractic. There are so many therapeutic modalities available for horse owners to choose from these days. Knowing when to choose what therapy can be as confusing as to how to find the right practitioner.

That’s why I reached out to Christina Kupper of Equine Kneads to explain the ins and out of magnetic therapy along with how to integrate it into your overall bodywork program. As a skilled, certified practitioner of multiple equine therapies, with years of experience working in the field, Christina understands just how important it is to empower her clients to make the best decisions possible when it comes to their horses.

During our chat Christina and I talk about:

  • Exactly what PEMF is and how magnetic therapy makes a difference on a cellular level in the horse
  • What PEMF can do for your horse and the contraindications of using it
  • How PEMF is her secret weapon for dealing with abscesses
  • The different brands of PEMF equipment that can be used on horses and the one she prefers
  • What owners should expect from their bodywork practitioners and the types of questions to ask them
  • How to determine which therapies work best together and in what order to use them

Types of PEMF equipment Christina discusses:

Where you can find Christina:

Interview transcript:


All right, good morning. We are here with Christina Kupper and she has Equine Kneads and I met Christina years ago and her brilliance really kept in my mind. And if I think of any person who should educate us on PEMF it’s Christina. She has many things that she does, but today we’re going to focus on this because this is one of my big-time things that everybody keeps asking me about. So Christina, explain maybe number one. What is PEMF


I’ll start off with a pretty quick visual. The one line is it works on cellular rejuvenation. The best scenario to give you a visual is to look at a raisin versus a grape. A raisin is obviously a mass of cells that are not healthy. Um, and a grape is a healthy round circular it’s plump. It’s pliable. You can press on it and everything. With a raisin, there’s no response at all. It’s shriveled, it’s dried up, et cetera.

Our bodies have a naturally neutral or negative charge when we’re healthy. When there is a disruption to that, the cells get a positive charge. The PEMF attracts to that. The PEMF is a negative charge that attracts to a positive. So you have that magnetic pole to a cell, um, and that magnetic pole stimulates electrical energy within the cell chemical and electrical energy within the cell. You can kind of go back to seventh-grade science and that’s how everything attracts everything on the planet has an electromagnetic field, everything.

So when we’re not in good health or a horse is not in good health on a cellular level PEMF’s job is to stimulate the body’s own natural healing ability. That’s what it does. So it’s not, you know, a cure-all. With the body there are things that it’s not going to benefit because if things are too far gone, you can’t turn a raisin back into a grape, you know, it’s just too far gone. So the earlier you start PEMF with an injury or an illness, depending on whether that’s part of the protocol and it’s safe to do so, the better the cellular responses. It works phenomenally on nerve regeneration and neuromuscular response. It works very well with healing, soft tissue. To give a good example, my horse, hurt her legs three times.

These wounds would have taken several months to heal and PEMF accelerated that healing process by boosting the body’s own natural immune response. So, um, that’s, that’s what it does. I mean, it’s, you know, I think there’s a lot of talk on like, “Oh, it breaks up fascia and does this, and it does that.” It works on a cellular level and it restores the healing ability. So, hopefully, that kind of answers that part of that.


No, that’s perfect. Well, yes, we can always go off on our things, but that gives us such a good visual. I love the raisin/grape, like going into all of that, cause that’s a great basis because a lot of people do get confused. Is it like doing the muscular type thing? Is it, you know, what does it involve? So I think that’s awesome. And then you kind of talked about, you know, the nerve regeneration and helping with healing and those sort of things. What other things are PEMF beneficial for?


So it works well with muscle recovery. It was designed originally in the early seventies. It was brought into a healthcare environment because it had been proven to increase by over 50%, accelerate the healing of non-union fractures. So it was originally brought into the healthcare environment for the healing of broken bones, essentially, because it would cut that timeframe by over 50%.

Wow. So soft tissue, you know, everything kind of depends on how vascular the tissue is because you gotta have a good blood supply so that the lymph and blood cells and nutrients can get there. So things like cartilage that don’t have a good blood supply PEMF works really well because it tries to stimulate those cells to heal on their own. But cartilage has the least blood supply of all of our soft tissue. It’s phenomenal with tears like suspensory, tendon tears, things like that. It does a great job with that with horses. And I can’t tell you why it does this, but it draws out abscesses.

It’s probably one of my favorite applications. It really can accelerate, drawing out abscesses.  I would say personally, mid 80% of horses that I’ve done with abscesses, the abscesses have blown within 24 hours. It doesn’t work in every case and I have to really point that out because nothing works in every scenario, everybody is different. Every equine body is different. Every human body is different and you know, we don’t always know what the underlying health status is. We can go by what we see, what the blood work tells us, things like that, but there’s a lot that’s subclinical that happens within the body that can implement or impact rather, uh, the healing process. So it’s not a cure.

But, in most cases, it does no harm. When a cell gets to a point where it’s recharged and people have probably seen this, if they’ve watched, you know, the muscle fasciculations across the back, when they put the coils on the back or something like that, the muscles kind of fasciculate and they look like they’re twitching or being electrically stimulated, that’s literally a positive to negative attraction of the magnetic field.

The cells are being attracted to the coils and that’s what’s causing that little fasciculation. And as you progress, you’ll notice those fasciculations start to slow down and they start to stop. And then the practitioner may turn it up, turn the intensity and the frequency up a little bit. They may make some adjustments to it, but the reason it’s slowing down is that the cells are becoming, getting a negative charge.

That’s why it’s slowing down. It doesn’t always mean, “Oh, well, I’m not seeing it anymore. So let me turn it back up.” We do that in some instances, but not in others. And that kind of goes back to the training. But in general, there’s a lot of talk that it does myofascial release. I’m a licensed massage therapist for people. I’ve taken a whole lot of myofascial courses. I’m a neuromuscular therapist. Fascial release is a very manual thing because of the way fascia works. I know a lot of people will disagree with me on this, but I’m not a believer that it releases fascia. I do think that it provides the area with blood flow and it makes it easier for fascia to stretch and to restore some elasticity. But if there are adhesions or restrictions of the fascia, PEMF is not really going to break that up. It can help with the cells, but it’s not going to break up the adhesions.


Would it be complementary to massage or anything like that?


So I use it personally in conjunction with massage and that helps the horses recover from the massage because anytime we do massage or even frankly, any kind of physical exercise, we create micro-tears in the tissue – how we build muscle. Right? And to help that muscle, those cells heal, you can use some PEMF to accelerate that. It helps prevent onset muscle soreness, which people feel and recognize when you go start a workout program. Two days later, you’re like, “ah, on my arms,” because I lifted weights or whatever it is. Horses actually get that too. So when they go and run a really long race or, you know, whatever, the case, they’re working hard using the PEMF can help keep the body healthy and prevent some of that downtime for recovery.


Is that something that you’d recommend for let’s say barrel racers – after they’re done racing or in between their days off? How do you recommend using it?


The nice thing about PEMF is the more you do the more the benefit. I have strong opinions on people that do 10 and 15-minute sessions and on equipment that only has settings for 10, 15 minutes. If you really look through the research and I did, I mean, I dove through pub med and veterinary science. I first got into PEMF about five or six years ago. You have to do at least 30 minutes for a lasting cellular change. It’s not that the lower time is not going to be of benefit, but to get the cells to hold the charge – just like if you charge your phone, you kinda gotta let it get to a full charge. That makes sense. That’s to a full charge in a very short period of time.

The first kind of technology that came out for PEMF, they were having people do this for six hours a day, every day for their fractures. So it became known as this very impractical therapy. Very beneficial, but not practical. Who has six hours a day to lay on a mat? I mean, we just don’t have that kind of time. So as technology advanced and they learned how to package it differently that’s when we started to get to where we can have adjustable frequencies and adjustable intensities. We could do more in less time, but it still takes some time. So then it really doesn’t do a whole lot.I want to say 10, 12, and 15-minute durations that you can use. And then you have to reset it. You have to kind of restart your machine all the time. So I think the Magna Wave price-wise runs around $8,000 to $10,000. If I remember right. That may have changed. That’s opinion, not fact, but I think it’s right around there. Pulse Centers has the square wave and it has quite a bit of adjustability. One of the things that I like and why I chose that particular unit was because there wasn’t a timer set on it. Depending on the unit that you get, you can independently adjust frequency and intensity. Most equine practitioners don’t have the unit that you can independently adjust intensity and frequency.

Those are pretty pricey. You’d be looking at somewhere in the $30,000 north range for those. And those are primarily, I think, used in medical offices where they’re working on somebody with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s or MS, or a neurological type of condition or some severe orthopedic, musculoskeletal type of conditions is where I tend to find PEMF. With the adjustability in physician’s offices but out in the field, it’s not really practical. Those big machines are really heavy and not very portable. So again, we go down to practicality, the two units, most people see in the field are the EQX and the EQXX. They don’t have independent adjustability. They are still adjustable with intensity and frequency – so a little different than the Bemer and the Magna Wave in terms of just the equipment and how you use it.


Another thing I wanted to get into is training. I have a lot of people that ask about it. My biggest recommendation to them is to find a person who you can trust and is good in their field. What are the things you look for in someone who does this?


I think there’s a very strong disconnect between people’s understanding of equine pathology. They don’t know when they should say no. That’s a really big deal, especially with PEMF. You do not want to be pulsing a horse with cellulitis until they are at least a good seven to ten days into their antibiotics. And if it’s a severe case, you wouldn’t even do it then. So you’d have to really know your pathology, different kinds of diseases, and things.

You have to know anatomy. You need to know what you’re targeting. Because I see a lot of practitioners putting the coils over the horse’s back, over the flank, and over that lumbar thoracic area, which is a common sore spot for horses. The problem is, is that they get to where the horse’s muscles are kind of jumping like this, and they want to see that, and the horse’s head is down and it’s practically drooling. And they’re like, “look how relaxed it is.” That’s an adrenal overload. That’s an overproduction of cortisol. If anybody has ever had an adrenaline rush and then come down from that adrenaline rush, you get exhaustion. When I see that or hear that, my instinct is to correct that because that is not an appropriate response from the horse.

We don’t want them so disengaged that they’re kind of numb to it. And then they’ll technically, usually I hear practitioners tell people to have their horses on stall rest for a day or two, following an intense PEMF session. It should energize the horse, not make the horse feel lethargic. So if the horse is lethargic after a PEMF session, that session was too intense.


So if you’re seeing a horse licking and chewing, that sort of thing, like you see with bodywork, is that what you want?


Exactly. Those typical releases of licking, chewing, yawning, even kind of getting the eyes kind of relaxed. I like to see them start to shift their weight. They’re having like natural postural sway and they’re running, they’re just getting into a relaxed state. I don’t want to see their heads hung really low where the handlers are trying to hold the horse’s head. I still want the horse to be involved. When they check out, that’s a big signal from the horse that they’ve had enough – that they’re trying to really tell you that they’ve reached that point of what their body can process for the day. And it’s not a mental process. It’s what the physical body can process. And when you do PEMF or bodywork or FES or any of those things, the body does take some time to integrate those changes.

That being said, how they integrate those changes is the important part. So if you have adrenal overload because you overstimulated the kidneys, and the adrenal glands pulsing over that flank and the horse is lethargic with its head down, you’ve done too much. And that horse will probably be a little bit sore for a couple of days. And that’s obviously not a positive response that the owner wants to feel when they go get on their horse. So the horse is just not acting themselves. Owners don’t know what to expect. It’s not something that’s tangible, you can’t see. You can do it in a Petri dish, under a microscope. We can show you the cells respond, but you can’t do that out in the field. So it’s not tangible. And owners have to trust that their practitioner is trained and knows what they’re doing. I think the training is really lacking across the board. I’ve written an awful lot of protocols for PEMF, worked with vets on developing those protocols.


Yes. It’s why I’ve come to you.


I think I know what I’m talking about. There are always things that are going to come up. Nobody knows everything. Um, and you know, depending on if somebody comes to me with a horse with a particular type of condition if I’m not familiar with that condition, I have equine pathology textbooks from veterinary universities that I reference. And if it doesn’t give me much information and I shouldn’t say if it doesn’t, cause if it’s something I’m not familiar with, I’m always discussing it with the vet before I start a session. Right. Because I’m not going to go in and do a session on something that I don’t completely understand.

There are contraindications. I’ve had horses that I’ve worked on that had underlying Cushing’s. It was undiagnosed and doing PEMF on them they would start to sweat and breathe heavy. If I didn’t know that those were signs of their body’s system being very taxed, I would keep going and be like, “Oh, they’re just sweating out the toxins.” I hear this all the time, and it’s not necessarily true. You should be on the side of caution and just stop because you don’t want a tying up episode. PEMF is strong. You can really crank these machines up to pretty high intensities with certain brands. Magna Wave and Pulse Centers, for example, you can get to some pretty high intensities with them. Just because you’re not seeing muscles fasciculate doesn’t mean that the pulse is not going through.

So you might not always see it. It doesn’t mean nothing’s happening. Right?

So I think training really needs to focus on what frequency and intensity you use depending on the type of tissue you’re targeting. Those cells are different. A heart cell is going to be different than a muscle cell. It’s going to look different than a muscle cell. You need different intensities and different frequencies on the type of thing you’re trying to target or work with. If you’re doing the overall body, like after a barrel race or cross country event or something like that, then you would do the whole body and you would keep it at a fairly low intensity and just let the bodies do its job.


How is PEMF complementary to other therapies?


I’ve fine-tuned things to where I can do PEMF while I’m doing massage. I know what I’m feeling. There are cases where this horse can’t handle the stimulation of hands-on work with massage and PEMF at the same time. It’s too much for the body to process for the mind to process, but I can do most of those simultaneously. And I actually really like doing that. I think that it helps the horse recover. It helps with what we’re addressing with the massage itself.

Obviously, you’re finding restrictions, knots, whatever it is that we’re finding. Let’s say, for example, I’m working on the horse’s neck. I might have the coils on the horse’s hips or back initially. Then I move down the horse. I’ll move that as up the horse. It’ll work on the horse on the areas that I’ve already massaged. I want to point out that sometimes you’ll put the coils on and not see any fasciculations through the back until you’ve gone through and done some mild fascial release manually. Then all of a sudden, the muscles will start to really respond. But the fascia it’s so restricted, literally, the muscles are too tight. Sometimes the horse’s magnetic fields are higher than another horse’s.

So you do have to turn it up a little bit. But the training should teach somebody how to look for the signs of how to adjust the intensity and frequency. From a complementary perspective, there isn’t a single modality I don’t really like – with one exception. I’m not a fan of the Kinesio taping. I think it’s extremely expensive. You didn’t ask my opinion on this, but I think it’s really expensive for very little benefit. While it can potentially be helpful to the horse, the cost just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for such a short duration of help. That’s my opinion.

I actually like FES quite a bit. I think that bodywork, FES, and PEMF complement one another. I see horses all the time that are atrophied somewhere. They maybe haven’t been ridden correctly for a really long time, or they’ve had an injury and compensatory patterns. The number one thing you hear is, how do I develop my horse’s top-line and how do I develop glutes? People think that they can fix that with good nutrition. Well, that’s the start. You have to have good nutrition to build good muscle. Then they think that they can massage it or pulse it or anything that’s going to help it when it boils down to those muscles have to get activated.

I see it all the time when horses are weak – either bilaterally or one-sided. They’re really locked up through their lumbar. They don’t have good flexion or extension through their pelvis and they can’t develop a top-line or the withers are sunken down between the shoulders. I think that when you have a horse that you’re trying to bring back into work, or that’s rehabbing from an injury, my favorite, and I know you have a ton of applications for FES, but my favorite application is in that rehab process, or when people are bringing a horse back into work that has not been using those muscles correctly, you can very gently stimulate those muscles to start activating before you start putting them under saddle or in conjunction with going under saddle. And that simulation works a little bit like dry needling.

I think FES is hugely complementary to bodywork. There isn’t a horse out there that’s so perfectly fit in the neck that he wouldn’t benefit from these modalities. There’s no rider that wouldn’t benefit from it, you


Absolutely so true.


If I had a horse that had something going on and I was pulling all the tricks out of my bag, I would always start with that hands-on bodywork. And then I would, depending on if I was looking at weakness or, an internal health issue, something systemic or an injury or a wound, I would either go straight to the FES or I would go straight to PEMF. I don’t have FES. So that’s not one of the tools in my toolbox, unfortunately.

If somebody wanted to do all three, I would do FES before I did PEMF. PEMF would be one of the last things on that horse. I would do the FES first after the bodywork. So I would do bodywork, FES, and then PEMF. I think there are instances where you would do the FES prior to doing body hands-on.

All of these modalities are meant to complement one another for the whole health. There isn’t a right or wrong with what people choose. I think right or wrong comes down to choosing somebody who knows what they’re doing. I don’t think it boils down to the equipment or the modalities at all. I do a lot of owners’ workshops because I want people to know how to assess their horses, want people to know how to palpate their horses, and understand what they’re feeling. So they know who to call. Do I call a massage therapist? Do I need the vet? Do I need chiropractic? Or is this something my farrier can take care of?

Here’s the tough talk

Credentials in this field mean about Jack. They are useless which is really unfortunate. I know there’s a lot of work going into changing that. There are organizations that are working really hard to develop at least a standardized test that people have to pass to do this, your standard curriculum, that all the schools out there teach. I am blown away that we’re allowed to go do this with that little kind of education. It has really inspired me to put together programs that are going to help owners be able to differentiate between practitioners. What’s a bad practitioner?

When it comes to PEMF, this is going to be controversial, but the training, in general, is fairly subpar. I know that both Magna Wave and Pulse Centers are working on improving that training. But I think people need to understand how long their practitioners have been doing this. Ask those questions. People are so afraid to question except to ask, “where did you go to school?” Well, I could tell them, I went to Timbuktu. They don’t know. But they want to hear you say the name of a school. So credentials don’t mean a whole lot to me when it comes to bodyworkers.

We sense an electromagnetic field from people. His good intentions are not good intentions. It’s the gift of fear that God gave to us. It’s our fight-flight or freeze response we have. You can judge if somebody’s comfortable working around your horse or not. right. We have that intuition. We can feel that energy. And so I think that’s the first thing people need to understand is observe how somebody moves around your horse.

But you do want to make sure that they’ve at least gone through some kind of training – ideally, they’ve gone through some extensive training and they focus on continuing. I mentor a lot of bodyworkers. I mentor them on their business and education and things like that come out of their first class, they just got certified and they’re super, just super excited.

And two weeks later, they go take another class and maybe they’ve gone to take the Masterson method or they want to take a cranial course. So they took a two-day myofascial release course. It takes time to develop, feel, and develop skills. And when you start finding that practitioner, that starts, you have the two extremes, you have the person who took the one class and it was four days to two weeks long.

And that’s it. They’re great. They’re the rock stars out there and they’re going to go conquer it. And I hope they do. Yeah. But they still don’t know that they don’t know. And then you have the other people that go and take the two-week class or the four-day class or whatever it is. And then they start compiling all these other things on top of it. Right. And they’ve not mastered anything. So they have all these great credentials, but they’ve not mastered any of them. And they still don’t understand feel. It takes time. I mean the average human massage class, if you were to go get licensed for human and massage, there isn’t a class out there that’s under nine months.

You can go up to two years and then you still have to have X number of continuing education credits. And so in order to keep your license, you have to keep learning. I’ve taken so many classes and there’s a whole bunch that I don’t do. I mean, they’re just, they don’t fit what I want and what benefits, what I’m trying to achieve with my clients. It’s good to know, but I mean, realistically, I’m not going to be working on pregnant women. So, I’ve taken a pregnancy massage course, but I’m not really good at use or apply that. So taking all these courses, you have to know how to apply it. And I think a lot of practitioners are just so hell-bent to get certified in all these different buzzword modalities.


Right? There’s always more and more you can do. These are great points that you bring up to educate people.


I think people don’t understand that horses are so similar to humans. Our cellular structure is actually quite similar. But they are way more sensitive than we are. The human PEMF equipment has nine layers of copper that are magnetized and are given a negative charge. The equine version only has four because they can’t handle the level of an electromagnetic field that a person can.


Well, Christina, you are just a wealth of knowledge. I’ve had so much fun. Thank you so much.

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