Equine and Large Animals Services

Equine services

Equine Physiotherapy has long been recognised as a valuable tool for performance enhancement as well as injury recovery. The unique skills of the Equine Physiotherapist in clinical palpation and gait analysis provide valuable input into your horse's health programme, offering an ongoing barometer of any subtle, gradual changes, which can be difficult to detect as an owner when you see the same animal twice daily.

It's advisable to schedule bi-annual physiotherapy checks for your pleasure horse, and more frequently for your competition horse, to ensure that any musculoskeletal imbalances are identified at an early stage, enabling prompt treatment, ensuring the horse works optimally, and to prolong their ridden careers.

To book just ask your vet to complete a referral form.

Of course, Equine Physiotherapists are well equipped with an armoury of techniques and therapies to effectively manage acute injuries and conditions too, such as ultrasound to better manage new cell alignment in a healing superficial flexor tendon or suspensory ligament injury, H-wave, massage and manipulation techniques to alleviate back pain, pulsed magnetic therapy for fracture repair, laser on oedema or haematoma from kicks or falls, and red-light therapy to assist wound healing.

Horses, in the same way as us, compensate for pain felt by adopting a way of moving which is less painful. Horses are masters at this, having an innate ability to mask injury stemming from the fact that they are, fundamentally, prey animals. This can mean that some conditions are unnoticed for quite some time, long enough for changes in muscle and soft tissue to take place. If left unaddressed, these changes can become permanent and performance limiting. Additionally, the equine skeleton has evolved to support a huge, grass filled gut, hanging below. Horses were never designed to carry the additional weight of a saddle and rider piled on top, so ridden horses are predisposed to back and neck problems, there are a number of contributory factors, which if identified during an equine physiotherapy session can be addressed.

Equine physiotherapy provides an ongoing support, re-educating correct posture and ensuring that such secondary problems do not arise, themselves causing pain and poor performance. Much work is done with ground schooling and gymnastic exercises to ensure the correct use of muscles and gait patterning.

Equine Physiotherapy can help manage these contributory factors in your horse;

  • Lack of Core Stability, and weak abdominal muscles
  • Incorrect posture, carrying the head and neck too high with the back extended rather than rounded
  • Carrying an unbalanced rider
  • Poorly fitting tack - which either doesn't suit the horse or places the rider in an unbalanced position
  • Low fitness levels, and poor muscle development
  • Lack of an effective warm-up and cool down session
  • Poor foot balance
  • Conformational anomalies

Large animal physiotherapy

Veterinary Physiotherapy isn't limited to canine and equine patients, with a growing number of referrals for farm animals being seen.

The physiotherapists and students at Harper Adams University are experienced in treating bovine cases such as downer cows, lameness caused by soft tissue problems and back pain, with many successes seen. Improved milk yields, and ease of calving are just some of the benefits seen in production animals when treated with physiotherapy.

All physiotherapy techniques can be effectively applied to livestock, including massage and mobilisation techniques, electrotherapies such as H-Wave, PEMF and NMES. The staff and students at Harper Adams University are involved in developing new techniques and approaches and the evidence base to support use in a clinical context.

Large animal referrals are made through your vet, either by referral letter or on completion of a referral form. Once completed this form will need to be returned to Helen Morrell, VN23, Harper Adams University, Newport, Shropshire, TF10 8NB for large animal and equine enquiries.

Does my horse need physiotherapy?

Signs that your horse might benefit from an equine physiotherapy session include;

  • Changes in temperament or behaviour
  • Resenting tacking up, becoming reluctant to accept the saddle and or bridle
  • General lethargy
  • The development of ridden behavioural problems, such as napping, rearing or bucking
  • Poor upwards or downwards transitions
  • Adding a short stride before fences or taking down poles
  • Inability to achieve a particular canter strike off, or to maintain a canter lead around the school
  • An unusually high or low head carriage
  • Loss of muscle / weight / condition along neck, back or quarters
  • Loss of impulsion or a shortening of stride
  • Snatching at the reins
  • Brushing behind
  • Stiff on one rein when ridden
  • Inability to work on the bit
  • Inactivity in hindquarters
  • Saddle slipping to one side
  • Head shaking
  • Uneven shoe wear

Always ensure your Equine Physiotherapist is adequately qualified to conduct the above therapies.