Equine Physiotherapy

Equine physiotherapy can be beneficial for any type of horse, whether that’s a casual leisure companion or a high performance competition horse. It is recommended that leisure horses are assessed a couple of times a year by a qualified equine physiotherapist, whilst competition horses should be reviewed on a more regular basis. Horses commonly acquire back and neck problems through the added weight of a saddle and rider.

Predisposition to injury may include:

  • Incorrectly fitting tack/saddle

  • Incorrect shoeing/foot imbalance

  • Asking too much for their current fitness levels

  • Unbalanced rider

  • Over-exercising

  • Inadequate warm up and cool down regimes

  • Poor core stability

Horses are experts at masking physical pain or discomfort by adjusting their gait or posture in a way that alleviates the pain. This can cause some conditions to go undiagnosed for a long period of time, and lead to long-term gait abnormalities. In addition to this postural changes and weight shifting behaviour in the horse may lead to secondary issues such as muscle tightness or abnormal joint loading in previously healthy tissues. Regularly seeing an equine physiotherapist should enable any minor changes to be identified early on and prevent the occurrence of secondary problems.

Common indications of injury in the horse:

  • Difficulty in achieving a correct ‘outline’

  • Difficulty in upwards or downwards gait transitions, extending or collecting

  • Head tossing/tail swishing excessively could indicate tension in the back

  • Shortened stride length

  • Bucking/rearing/napping at the bit

  • Changes in behaviour/temperament

  • Loss of performance .e.g. hitting show jumping poles

  • Difficult to saddle up

  • Reluctance to work smoothly on both reins

  • Uneven shoe wear

  • Inability to work on the bit

  • Unusual head carriage

Equine physiotherapists should be well equipped with a range of different therapeutic techniques that can be beneficial in treating both acute and chronic conditions, used in conjunction with a progressive exercise programme. Physiotherapy may also be beneficial for reducing scar tissue formation from new or historic injuries, whilst laser therapy may be beneficial in assisting wound healing of traumatic incidents such as lacerations/post-surgery.

It is recommended that in conjunction with physiotherapy, regular visits from a farrier and saddle fitter are essential to ensure that neither saddle or shoe are having a negative effect on your horse's overall performance or wellbeing.

© Alexandra Martin and amartinvetphysio 2019