Why do horses might need osteopathy?

Horses can become imbalanced for various reasons, from the demands of their training to simply running around in the fields.

How can osteopathy help horses?

  • Assessment and treatment of existing pain.
  • Protection against potential muscle joint and tendon problems.
  • Maintenance of the horse’s essential need for ongoing flexibility and mobility and therefore performance.
  • Performance and behaviour issues which may be associated with physical pain or restriction.

Whether just an MOT to target niggles and preventing them from escalating, or helping with specific issues, osteopathy can help your horse to stay flexible and balanced.

Osteopathy can reduce restriction patterns and relieve tensions, therefore helping to reduce risks of injury, whilst also promoting balance, flexibility, mobility, and optimal performance. It can also aid with rehabilitation post injury.

Osteopathy is not just for the competition horse, it is also suitable for horses at all levels, disciplines, and ages. Osteopathy is suitable for the majority of horses that have issues in their muscles, joints, ligaments or tendons. Sometimes your vet may want to check your horse first to confirm that treatment is suitable. It is also a legal requirement to gain veterinary consent before giving osteopathy treatment.

When would osteopathy be suitable for my horse?

It is not always easy to tell when a horse is in pain. Some pain signs include:

  • Reduced levels of performance.
  • Changes in behaviour e.g., pinning ears back, refusing to being saddled or girthed, tail swishing, bucking, rearing, bolting, refusing to jump, unable to stand still or relax.
  • Problems with gait e.g., difficulty in transitions, shortened stride, performs better being reined on one side than the other, disunited canter.
  • Postural issues e.g., Weight shifting, non-weight bearing, unbalanced muscle bulk, friction rubs, white hair patches, holds tail to one side, uneven hoof wear, cold back, sacroiliac lesions.
  • Head and neck issues e.g., problems with head carriage, head tilt, restrictions in turning the head.
  • Joint stiffness e.g., arthritis in the older horse.
  • Other symptoms caused by specific injuries, health conditions, or post-operation e.g., tendon injuries, ligament sprains.

Sometimes your horse may already have a medical condition or injury that has been diagnosed by the vet.  In these cases, osteopathy can be suitable to help manage those conditions, or as post-rehabilitation after surgery.

What to expect during an appointment?

At your first appointment, I will ask questions about your horse’s medical history and lifestyle, as well as the symptoms you may have noticed. We will also write down what you tell us in your records. These will be treated as confidential in accordance with standards of practice set out by the General Osteopathic Council and the Data Protection Act 1998.

We will examine your horse, which will involve a walk and trot up and, if required, lunging and riding too, followed by a whole-body osteopathic examination.

What does the treatment involve?

It generally involves different osteopathic techniques such as mobilisations, manipulation, soft tissue massage, lymphatic drainage, stretching and strengthening.
I also use, when needed, a low-level Omega laser, which helps in reducing callus formation in splints, promotes optimal wound healing, pain relief, healing of soft tissue injuries (muscles, tendons, and ligaments). Low level laser is safe, non-invasive, painless, side-effect free. (Omega Laser Treatment read more here.)

Is osteopathy safe for my horse?

  • Osteopathy carries very few risks and is beneficial for most horses.  Some horses may feel tired for around 1-2 days, so I recommend to not work your horse during that time.
  • I carry out a thorough examination to check that your horse is suitable to have treatment. If treatment is not suitable, I will refer your horse back to your vet.
  • To reduce adverse reactions, I tailor the treatment to suit your horse so they will have the safest and most effective treatment.
  • I do not treat horses under sedation.

How long will my horse’s appointment last for?

  • Initial appointment is about an hour.
  • Follow-up appointments are about 30 to 45 minutes.

Your horse’s first appointment is longer because a full case history needs to be done.

I take my time to build a bond with your horse to give them a positive treatment experience. Therefore, I sometimes allow longer time for initial and follow-up consultations. If your horse is nervous this will give them more time to feel comfortable and relaxed.

Is my horse’s treatment covered on my animal insurance?

Yes, most insurance companies accept osteopathy if the osteopath is fully qualified, insured, and the vet has given permission.

Does my horse need to be checked regularly?

If your horse is working or competing, I would recommend your horse to have maintenance treatment every 3 to 6 months.  This allows any new muscular or joint changes to be found and treated in time. Regular treatment for elderly horses helps relieve symptoms from joint and arthritic pain.

Other horses may or may not need maintenance treatment. I will explain to you whether your horse needs maintenance treatment based on the findings from the consultation.

I would also recommend that you book an appointment if you have just bought your horse, to identify if there are any musculoskeletal issues that can be prevented with osteopathic treatment.

Did you know that if the rider is in pain or unbalanced these issues can transfer onto the horse?

Therefore to help prevent recurring riding issues in the horse it is also important for the rider to be assessed and treated.  Please visit our human osteopathy page for more details. A 20% discount is available when you book yourself and your horse for assessment and treatment.