About Equine Physiotherapy

Animal physiotherapy involves the assessment, treatment and rehabilitation of musculoskeletal conditions.

 

Physiotherapy involves the detailed assessment and treatment of musculoskeletal conditions. Various treatments and rehabilitation techniques are used with the aim to restore an injured tissue back to full function and strength. The initial history taken from the owner is vital to gain knowledge of where the problem may be, what structure may be at fault and whether the problem is worsening or improving. If the horse has a known veterinary diagnosis the assessment is more tailored towards assessing the horse’s stage in recovery for that known problem.

 

Common conditions we treat in horses include:

  • Neck pain e.g. associated with either an acute injury or fall, secondary to a known pathology i.e. degenerative facet joints or secondary to a forelimb lameness.
  • Back pain e.g. associated with an ill-fitting saddle, secondary to known pathology i.e kissing spines or secondary to a fore or hindlimb lameness.
  • Pelvic pain e.g associated with an injury or secondary to know pathology i.e. sacro-iliac disease.
  • Specific muscle, tendon or ligament injuries.

 

Physiotherapy can also be indicated for other common presenting complaints such as:

  • Bucking, rearing, napping behaviour.
  • Stiffness on one rein.
  • Head tilting.
  • ‘cold backed’ tendencies.
  • Disuniting in canter.
  • Working hollow.
  • Saddle fit problems.
  • Uneven shoe wear.
  • Back pain secondary to a lameness issue.
  • Muscle asymmetry or imbalance.
  • Routine screening/check-ups.

 

How do we treat

Physiotherapy involves the use of treatments aimed at either:

  1. Reducing pain either caused by swelling or muscle spasm for example.
  2. Facilitating tissue healing and recovery.
  3. Restoring normal tissue length and joint range of motion.
  4. Promoting muscle strength and function.

 

The physiotherapy assessment determines whether some or all of the above need addressing in a treatment. An assessment involves the following:

 

Assessment:

History – This may involve discussion with the owner, trainer and/or vet.

Observation – In standing assessing conformation/posture/muscle development and symmetry.

Gait – Observing your horse move in a straight line, lunging, possibly ridden, circling and reversing and performing other sensitising tests if indicated.

Palpation – Feeling for muscle pain, spasm, tenderness and assessing joint ranges of motion.

 

Treatment:

Following your assessment a treatment plan is devised depending on your horse’s problems. Treatments include some or all of the following:

  • Manual therapy techniques i.e. joint manipulation under sedation, joint mobilisation, soft tissue stretching/massage.
  • Electrotherapy treatment i.e. H-wave, ultrasound, laser, muscle stimulation.
  • Muscle strengthening exercises i.e. hydrotherapy treadmill, kinesio taping, abdominal strengthening exercise techniques.

 

Treatments under Sedation:

These are extremely useful treatments where problems are chronic and deep seated, involving the cervical spine (neck) or wide spread.

 

These involve meeting up with your veterinary surgeon to sedate your horse so they are completely relaxed to allow a better stretch during the treatment. This technique is extremely beneficial in returning full range of movement to the neck, back and pelvis.