Updated: Apr 16
Can horse's have physio? And should they?
YES and YES!
I’m a firm believer that all pets should receive regular vet and vet physio sessions to keep them happy and healthy. But why?
Let’s start by having a look at what veterinary physiotherapy for horses is:
So a vet physio session for your horse would include an assessment of your horse's musculoskeletal and neurological systems, this is to check for any injuries, strains, over or underuse of a certain muscle, movement of each joint and a spinal assessment.
Once your horse's assessment has been completed your vet physio will relay to you there findings and continue with your horse's treatment.
Now you know what a physio session for your horse would include you might be thinking ‘I don’t think my horse has any issues so they don’t need physio’ or perhaps your thinking ‘How do I know if my horse needs physio?’.
Let’s take a look first at the 3 most common conditions vet physio’s see and the signs you can look out for.
Back pain: Back pain is the most common condition I see in horses. Almost all ridden horses have some form of back pain or dysfunction meaning they are not working their backs correctly, usually due to lack of core strength.
Horse's with back pain will often be more spooky when ridden, show reluctance to being brushed and tacked up, having the girth done up etc. They will show asymmetry when being ridden i.e. they will have more bend to the left or right and may even struggle to stay straight, this is because when our horses have any pain or tension within their back muscles this alters the range of movement of the spine.
A great way to prevent back pain is to ensure you as a rider are symmetrical, improve your horse's core strength and ensure any areas of tension in your horse's back are treated at least every 3 months.
Your vet physio will likely use a combination of laser, PEMF, massage and TENS to treat your horse's back pain.
Reduced Muscle Mass: Almost all horses will have a weakness in one area or another which leads to reduce muscle mass. This is easy to spot on your horse's as they will not look even in size left to right or front to back. In more advanced cases you might even see reduced stride length or flight arc.
Luckily this is easy for you and your vet physio to correct with remedial exercises and in some cases NMES.
Reduced range of motion: This can be reduced motion of any joint in the body or multiple joints. Owners often notice this as a change in stride length, an undertrack, reduced flight arc and poor spinal flexion or trouble staying in an outline.
Reduced motion can be due to underlying pathologies such as osteoarthritis or can be due to conformation or even just lack of experience or work.
In the case of lack of work or experience, this is easily treated and prevented with controlled therapeutic exercises. However in cases of pathology, it is a little harder for owners to prevent and manage themselves, this is where vets and vet physios are really essential to help you manage your horse's condition.
Do any of these sound like your horse?
Don’t worry if they do it just means you need a little help from your vet and vet physio team.
Not sure where to get started with improving your horse's muscle mass and strength? Check out our webinar bundle here- https://www.fitpetphysio.com/product-page/equine-webinar-bundle and instantly download our Complete topline and core conditioning program and our Strugglin to success an equine conditioning journey webinar for just £17.50! (Usually £9.99 each)
But why is it important that you do seek help?
If you don’t seek help your horse will continue to suffer from these conditions that limit their performance, health and ultimately their quality of life. They may not seem severe now but if left they will continue to escalate unless you put measures in place to rectify it (your vet physio’s recommendations).
Just imagine how much more you and your horse could achieve!