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Does my horse need a physiotherapist?

Just like with human athletes, stiffness sometimes occurs after a workout. Horses are masters in compensating to avoid being in discomfort, so this can lead to altered movement patterns. Because our horses cannot tell us they are sore like humans can, it is important to regularly check whether everything is still working properly and feels supple. This can help prevent injuries in the long run! A great example of this is the start of a horse’s career: it is young and weak, with no core-strength nor the ability to stabilise it’s big body, let alone support a rider on top of it. When breaking a horse in, it requires a lot of muscle power and adaptation. Don’t let initial soreness become the prelude of an injury at this crucial time!

I think a lot of us have been in this position before: their horse’s behaviour changed, his performance deteriorated or he seemed to have lost the joy in his work. Objectively, you cannot say he is lame, but you feel he is just different. A physiotherapist is trained to pick up on the most subtle signs and can help you identify these in your horse. Together, we can pinpoint the issue and address the cause, working together to make your horse feel good again.

The following signs and symptoms can mean your horse could benefit from a physiotherapy session:

Changes in behaviour - Lack of impulse - Difficulty side-bending - Not accepting the bit - Struggling with flying changes - Inconsistent contact - Bucking or rearing - Difficulty with transitions - Disuniting in canter or bunnyhopping - Stressful behaviour - Kicking or biting when tacking up or trying to mount - Reluctance to work - Headshaking - Tripping more often - Struggling with straightness - Taking off without an obvious reason - More passive mentality in general, looking “down”

Physical changes - Muscle wastage without a change in work routine - Swelling of a muscle, tendon, joint or a part of the skin - Carrying his tail sideways - Taking longer to warm-up at the start of a training - Shortened stride-length or shorter stance time - Pain when you touch certain areas

Physiotherapy can not only aid in managing these complaints, but it can also be a valuable aid in the management of other pathologies. Kissing spines, synovitis of the neck, rehabilitation of a tendon injury or after surgery,... A horse suffering from either of these pathologies can benefit from physiotherapy during his way to recovery and return to work.

If your horse is suffering greatly or has a very clear lameness, it is best it is seen by a specialised vet before starting physiotherapy. Equinésio believes in a multidisciplinary approach and encourages a close relationship between all members of a horse’s team. After discussion with the treating veterinarian, physiotherapy can be started.

If you have doubts whether or not physiotherapy is the right call at the moment, feel free to contact me so we can discuss what the best plan of action is for you and your horse!

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