Equine Physiotherapy

Physiotherapy can benefit horses in many ways, not only when there is an existing problem or musculoskeletal condition but also to aid performance and prevent the horse from future injury. Just like us, horses can suffer with a number of joint or muscle related problems. They can also suffer the consequences of rider imbalances and asymmetries.

Physiotherapy can be of benefit to all types of horses and ponies, from young and older horses to elite athletes.

It is a legal requirement of the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966, that the Physiotherapist obtains permission from the owner’s Vet prior to assessment and treatment of the horse. This also encourages multidisciplinary team working in order to gain the best outcome for your horse.

How do horses tell us they have a problem?

  • Change and reduction in performance
  • Behavioural changes under saddle or on the ground
  • Bucking, rearing, napping
  • Schooling issues: going disunited in canter, poor or inconsistent in contact, hollowing back, not engaging hind-limbs, lack of bend, lack of straightness
  • Jumping issues: refusing, rushing, unable to take off
  • Problems tacking-up
  • Cold backed
  • Lameness
  • Uneven shoe wear

We use a variety of specialist treatment and rehabilitation techniques to compliment Veterinary treatment and general management of the following problems:

  • Neck, back and pelvis problems
  • Stiffness and degenerative joint disease
  • Back pain, related or unrelated to lameness
  • Management of post-operative conditions
  • Soft tissue injuries of muscle, tendon and ligaments
  • Nerve injuries
  • Wounds and scar tissue
  • Behavioural issues

What to expect

We will:

  • Contact your Vet prior to arrival
  • Make initial assessment lasting 1-1.5 hours (follow-ups 1 hour)
  • Take a detailed history of your horse
  • Observe your horse standing square, moving in a straight line, lunging, turning a tight circle and possibly ridden
  • Complete a physical examination: palpation of muscle and soft tissue, assessing joint range of movement
  • Formulate a treatment plan involving those that work with the horse
  • Perform appropriate treatment
  • Discuss post treatment work and rehabilitation programme (follow-up treatment if appropriate)

Download vet approval form

Treatments

The equine Physiotherapy treatments that we offer aim to alleviate pain, maximise performance, rehabilitate and restore function. A detailed understanding of equine anatomy and biomechanics as well as pathology allows us to tailor treatment programmes to your horse needs, using palpation and clinical reasoning for ongoing assessment.

Manual techniques

We use a wide range of joint and soft tissue techniques to restore and increase range of movement, muscle length and tone, in order to reduce stiffness, pain and spasm. These techniques include:

  • Joint mobilisation and manipulation
  • Massage, myofascial release and trigger point release
  • Reflex inhibition, using the horse’s natural reflexes to stimulate joint movement and soft tissue stretch
  • Stretches performed by the physio, then taught to the owner

Treatment under sedation

This is a pre-planned joint session with your Veterinary Surgeon, where sedation is performed by the Vet. The horse will be standing but relaxed enough to allow for a deeper release of soft tissue and joint mobilisation. This is particularly useful where problems are chronic or deep seated. Treatments under sedation also enable a more in depth assessment and mobilisation of the neck and poll region.

Electrotherapy

Electrotherapeutic modalities are used in conjunction with other treatments to promote healing of soft tissue, reduce pain and mobilise or stimulate muscle activation. Selection of the appropriate modality is based on the case in hand and stage of healing. Electrotherapy modalities that we use include:

  • H-wave (at low frequency provides a deep mobilisation of muscle tissue, facilitating joint mobility of pelvis, neck and back)
  • Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation
  • Ultrasound

Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation is a fundamental part of equine Physiotherapy. Coming from a Chartered Physiotherapy background, we can use principles developed in human sports medicine to develop programmes and exercises to strengthen, mobilise, increase stability and improve proprioception. Exercises are tailored to the individual horse to aid recovery and or prevent future injury. These may include:

  • Core stability strengthening exercises
  • Stretching and mobility exercises
  • Proprioceptive taping
  • Global strengthening / conditioning / stability work
  • Advice on use of lunging, pole work, long reining, in-hand work and training aids
  • Advice and assistance with aqua treadmill exercise as part of rehabilitation