Veterinary Physiotherapy is the application of manual therapies, electrotherapies and remedial exercise program prescriptions applied to help your animal heal and develop. This functional approach to healing employs highly-trained and research driven knowledge and application of modern, tried and tested protocols. 

Animals show pain and discomfort in many different ways; prey animals such as horses also try and cover it up to reduce their exposure as targets to predators (historically). It is a highly-trained skill to determine: 

  • If there is pain or discomfort affecting your horse?

  • Where that pain or discomfort is?

  • What can be done to alleviate this and aid return to full health and comfort? 

What to expect from your appointment: 

The investigation to determine the answer to these questions is extensive, involving assessment of your horse's previous medical history, as well as behavioural, observational and physical presentation of your horse. These assessments include the following: 

  1. Static assessment: Conformation and posture analysed when the horse is standing. This includes assessment of hoof balance and body condition scores. 

  2. Dynamic assessment: Watching your horse move in walk and trot, potentially on the lunge and under saddle depending on the nature of the complaint. 

  3. Palpation: Feeling muscles, bony landmarks and soft tissues of your horse from head-to-toe. Compensation may be hard to pin-point dynamically, but an effective manual assessment can highlight areas of pain and tension that are either directly or indirectly involved in the reason for referral.

LAMENESS is not the only reason for Veterinary Physiotherapy referral

 The following is a list of example problems which can be aided by Veterinary Physiotherapy, under Veterinarian guidance.

Pre- and post-surgery rehabilitation 

  1. Targeted pain relief prior and post- surgeries enhance the comfort levels and often behaviour of the horse. If appropriate, strengthening of core musculature can enhance the recovery time post-surgery. Finally, acclimatising a horse to the process of Veterinary Physiotherapy provides a benchmark for that horse’s condition, movement and body function which means the post-surgery condition and eventual recovery can be effectively, objectively assessed.

  2. We have personal experience rehabilitating horses from (among others):

    1. Colic surgery

    2. Thrombosis of the femoral artery

    3. Coffin bone fracture

    4. Teeth dislocated from the lower jaw 

    5. Gastrocnemius tendon rupture 

    6. Proximal suspensory ligament lesions 

    7. Suspensory ligament lesions 

Behavioural problems 

  1. Sudden changes in behaviour are crucial in determining something wrong: whether it be a sudden inability to bend and flex one way when ridden, or a normally placid horse becoming extremely sharp (and vice-versa!). These changes can represent changes in horses' bodies, which should be observed and treated accordingly.  

  2. Aggressive or fearful behaviour: bucking, rearing, bolting can be evasion tactics for horses who are unable or unwilling to work. Pain may become associated with some training exercises or methods

  3. Dull or overly-quiet behaviour for a commonly energetic horse can indicate pain. Lazy horses (whether it be sudden or over time) can be protecting their bodies from the increased effort because that increases pain somewhere, and they are reluctant to perform. 

Increased sensitivity 

  1. Saddle placement and girthing up may incite aggression, biting or kicking which could indicate pain.

  2. Strong evasion to bridle or halter application can indicate head pain, similarly head-shy horses may be avoiding pressure on their heads. 


  1. Uncommonly lacklustre performance in training and/or competition could indicate a horse not feeling 100% and therefore possibly in need of enhanced recovery guided by a Veterinary Physiotherapist. 

  2. Abnormal biomechanics, including lameness are distinct reasons for investigation by a veterinarian and subsequent Physiotherapy treatment. 

  3. Joint inflammation, soft-tissue damage and muscular pain and spasm may all cause changes in biomechanics, and the compensation resulting from these problems can increase damage elsewhere (our blog on this will help you understand why!) and as a result need to be addressed as early as possible to prevent extensive secondary damage.  

Conditions commonly addressed by Veterinary Physiotherapy 

Kissing Spines

Suspensory ligament lesions


Navicular syndrome

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