Retraining Racehorses, Rehabilitation, Therapy & Schooling

Email: Enquiries@equinetraining.co.uk or call 01780-740773

Equine  Rehabilitation and Therapy

Equine Management & Training provide equine rehabilitation and any necessary equine therapy for lameness, musculoskeletal/orthopaedic conditions (such kissing spine, sacroiliac and pelvic disorders), soft tissue injuries, asymmetry, muscle atrophy and performance issues as well as wound management and degenerative conditions such as anthrosis.

We are continually researching and studying to ensure we remain up-to-speed on the all the latest news and developments in the veterinary world so that we can provide the best possible care and treatments for your horse to optimise his recovery and hence future performance. 



What is Equine Rehabilitation?


EQUINE REHABILITATION is a term often used to encompass retraining but rehabilitation is actually the application of physical therapy treatments to help the body heal with the aim of restring correct and optimum physical function or at least improving same.  Nor is it  not just about bringing a horse back into work following an injury; it is about restoring muscular, tendon and ligament strength, joint and tissue mobility and function, balance and co-ordination.  More often than not there are additional issues such as atrophy and abduction, spasms, hypertonicity, myofascial adhesion and proprioceptive dysfunction which also have to be addressed.  

ANYTHING that comes under the head of "poor performance"  indicates that equine rehabilitation of one form or another is required, with or without associated veterinary treatment. Once the cause has been identified, the most appropriate treatment can be effected.  

Poor Performance in Horses

JUST about every rider has been through the scenario of riding their horse and it just not feeling right. Commonly it is put down to the horse having an off day but how many "off-days" does a horse have to have before action is taken to find out what is wrong?

A HORSE may demonstrate one or more of the following: 

  • stiffness on one rein
  • crookedness
  • head tossing
  • tail swishing
  • shortened or stilted strides
  • difficulty in canter strike off
  • disunited canter
  • poor outline/hollowing/
  • contact issues/teeth grinding
  • saddle slipping to one side
  • tripping
  • uneven wearing of the shoes

Or more significantly in:

  • dipping of the back when groomed/saddled
  • napping
  • probems with the farrier
  • not wanting to stand still to be mounted
  • unexplained lameness
  • bucking into canter
  • reluctuance to go downhill/uphill
  • rearing/bucking
  • refusing/reluctance to jump
  • over-rotation of the pelvis on a circle

OR IF you detect:

  • uneven muscle tone
  • carrying of the tail to one side
  • muscle twitching/muscle spasms

then your horse may need help.

OF COURSE any of the above can be symptomatic of other issues such as an ill-fitting saddle, inappropriate or poorly fitted bit/noseband, unbalanced feet, poor riding, an unbalanced rider, lack of fitness,lack of training or gastric ulcers. ,

IN THE immediate when horses show any kind of resistances trainer and riders often resort to changing the bit and/or noseband or reaching for the side reins, draw reins or similar BEFORE ruling out possible causes. By forcing a horse into an outline by use of a training aid or lever/curb bit, further damage is being done as the horse adopts more and more of a compensatory way of going in order to cope.

WHATEVER the nature of the injury, whether something readily identifiable such as a sprain, strain, a pulled muscle, a foot abscess or ligament/ tendon damage or something that needs veterinary diagnostics to pin-point, a horse, as a flight (prey) animal,  compensates in order to cope - otherwise in the wild he too readily would become someone else's dinner! This compensation if left untreated even after the original injury has resolved, will have a knock-on effect on another part of the body and ultimately give rise to another issue. .

CERTAIN AILMENTS also warrant rehabilitative therapy such as colic; indeed any horse that has undergone surgery will require at minimum, physiotherapy.  


IT IS NOT uncommon for an injury to be sustained due to an existing but hitherto unnoticed issue such as a pelvic tilt and/or rotation. A long-standing issue behind invariably leads to a foreleg injury.

CONDITIONS such as kissing spine  commonly manifest as a secondary or compensatory condition as a result of hind suspensory, hock, stifle or sacroiliac problems.  

THIS horse’s pelvis is not sitting square as evidenced by Line C; there is consequential muscle wastage (Arrows A and B).


LOOK at the green line and you can see how the twist in the horse is causing the saddle to sit to the right.

A HORSE with a pelvic tilt and/or rotation will have difficulty with correct canter strike off on a given rein depending on which side of the pelvis is affected. 



A HORSE that is not propelling from behind; this is evidenced by:

- the lack of hind end development despite reasonable development in front; this horse has been pulling itself along. The fore-end musculature presents tightness and tension. This horse will have worked in a very hollow outline propping itself on the underside of neck muscles.
- the horse is not taking any weight behind
- the left foreleg being pulled back can indicate a forelimb injury; in this particular case there was tendon damage to the near fore. 


Core Strength

ALSO TERMED  core stability, core strength is so important yet so many horses lack it.  The muscles of the abdomen, back, pelvis and thoracic sling need to be strong, toned and functioning properly so that the horse can comfortably carry the weight of a rider whilst at the same time carry himself and work correctly,  The horse that has a weak core cannot be properly engaged and work in a consistent contact; his ability to work is consequently compromised and his rider becomes increasingly dismayed and frustrated with his performance. So out comes a "training aid" - usually the most inappropriate one - and the horse is then forced to work in a restrictive, false outline which only serves to build the wrong muscles in the wrong places because the horse is not actually working the right muscles in the right way - which leads back to compensatory issues.

WEAKNESS in the core manifests in a horse that is heavy in the hand, one-sided, resistant and more often than not has difficulty maintaining an outline. By building and then maintaining core strength much can be done to help alleviate the symptoms of SCS (Spinal Crowding Syndrome’ (SCS), which if not addressed can degenerate into kissing spine. 

BY EFFECTIVELY putting a horse through a "yoga or pilates" programme to 
precisely target, reverse and then strengthen his core and teach him to use his body correctly, inherent weaknesses can be overcome and a horse develop self-carriage.  


Equine Rehabilitation Programmes

REHABILITATION starts the moment  the injury or ailment is diagnosed as correctly applied rehab therapies/treatments increase the rate of healing. So whilst initially pain, inflammation and possibly infection have to be managed with the horse on box rest, it does not mean that there is nothing that can be done to aid aid the healing process.

  • each case is very much an individual one so we compile the most appropriate rehabilitation and treatment programme for each horse; in most cases a combination of therapies works best   

  • apart from addressing the presenting issue(s), we will also identify and address any contributory factors within a horse's therapy, treatment  and subsequent exercise programme.

  • manual massage and mobilisation techniques are used alongside mechanical therapies and remedial farriery which is usually required, at least in the short-term. 

  •  we work closely with a horse's veterinary surgeon, referral consultant, trainer (if applicable) and associated practitioners (should a client prefer to use their own) to ensure the recovery process is effected to its maximum.

  •  we have access to an extensive range of  the country's leading Practitioners within all fields of therapy whether mechanical or complementary. 

  • we have a wide range of  mechanical therapy equipment and can also provide kinesio taping treatments as well as manual massage.

  • Veterinary Thermal Imaging is used alongside veterinary diagnostics so we can closely monitor progress.

  • our groundwork and ridden work programmes are praised throughout the veterinary world for the physique, core strength, top line, suppleness and mobility they develop. 


THE top two images illustrate a very weak individual; the bottom two are the same horse just 6 weeks later, and this despite the horse being on box rest due to significant tendon damage in both forelegs.

WITH proper balancing of the feet, lateral extensions to provide support, chiropractic and daily manual massage, lymphatic drainage, PEMT therapy combined with mobilisation exercises to promote core strength, the horse has much improved posture which will continue to improve once long reining work can begin.  .

WHATEVER the cause behind why your horse needs to undergo an equine rehabilitation programme:

  • kissing spine
  • tendon or ligament damage
  • a fracture,
  • exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH) and lung fibrosis 
  • management of anthrosis and arthritis
  • arrythmia 
  • atrial fibrillation

to name but a few possible reasons, Equine Management and Training can put your horse back on the road to recovery.


Tendon and Ligament Injuries

INJURY to a tendon is common; as long as a horse gets appropriate rest and then a slow return to exercise commencing with in-hand walking, recovery is usually unremarkable. However we look at things from a slightly different angle; we do not just work at healing the injury but look at the horse as a whole - it's total way of going:

- is the horse throwing weight onto one forelimb more than another
- is the horse trying to avoid using its back
- we look at muscle formation; are there signs of atrophy or over-development 
- are any of the muscles hypertonic
- the wear on shoes; are any toes being dragged
- are the joints being flexed properly - not enough or actually over-flexion; a snappy hock is not always the sign of a horse that is "active behind"

BY assessing the horse as a whole we look at why the tendon injury was incurred in the first place. Of course it may well be the result of an over-reach, a stumble or working on poor ground, but in many instances injury to a forelimb goes hand in glove with something else somewhere else but sadly this is often not recognised.

INJURIES to ligaments often take longer to heal due to the non-elastic nature of ligament fibres and their lack of blood supply. Sadly when horses fail to recover from a ligament injury it is usually because they have been brought back into work too soon.


Kissing Spine

THIS is a condition which we have many dealings with from diagnosis, operation, through the rehabilitation process and a full return to work; we usually have two such cases in the yard at any one time.  



THE xray in the left image shows a lovely healthy back with the vertebrae well-spaced out whilst the image on the right shows a horse that is in need of veterinary intervention. The right hand image shows whiter or brighter areas (follow the line of the arrows) - these are areas where the bones have been touching (kissing) and you can also see areas where there is actual bone loss due to inflammation.- the darker areas adjacent to the whiter areas.

WHEN deciding on the best course of treatment the number of dorsal processes involved and their site must be taken into consideration as of course must be the horse's age and whether any other conditions such as sacroiliac, pelvic or hind suspensory issues present. Treatment can range from chiropractic, acupunture, SWT, mesotherapy, corticosteriods or other medications as well as interspinous ligament desmopathy (ISLD and resection. , 

SOME kissing spine treatments are deemed not to be successful and we believe the reasons for this to be:

- a rush to get a horse back under saddle as soon as possible
- ineffective or inaccurate groundwork resulting in poor muscle strength. People get very focused on building the longissimus dorsi when actually it is the muscles which lift and flex the back which are the most important ones.  
- other undiagnosed issues - we always recommend all areas of a horse are investigated if kissing spine is diagnosed; we see too many horses operated on only for an owner to then discover another issue is also presenting
- there are complications due to infection (in the case of resection). Whilst formerly of the opinion that operations carried out with the horse standing were actually better, we now believe that it is best if horses are on their side. If you wish to know why please contact us. 

A TELL-TALE sign that back muscle may not suitably built up is when palpating the spine you can feel where resection has taken place; in some cases you can visibly see the "crenellation effect" [as we call it].  The quality of the ground work during active rehabilitation phase is so important. Quite why everyone is in such a rush remains a mystery but the longer spent on the groundwork the stronger the back muscles will become to allow the horse to return to full athletic ability. 


ATTENTION to the diet of course is important at any time but especially so for the horse recovering from an injury or illness.  A proper balance is needed between supplying the vital nutrients that aid repair and keeping or building condition but without running the risk of compromising the situation by overloading the system.

OUR choice of feeds of those provided by Castle Horse Feeds as we firmly believe that the quality and calibre of the whole range is second to none and in using them we are confident that we are providing the very best for the horses in our care. 


WHATEVER your requirements, whatever your horse's issues,
we can compile the most appropriate equine rehabilitation and therapy treatment programme.


Post-operative Care

WE TAKE horses that have had all manner of operations; often horses come directly from the veterinary clinic for post-operative care and monitoring as well as specific nursing and treatments when owners are not experienced enough or able to cope during the early stages of recuperation. 


Box Rest

HOWEVER long the box-rest term, this is not a issue.  We can keep your horse happy and content, and free from the associated issues of long-term confinement. Box rest is a daunting prospect for many owners and even more so in the case of horses that have to be effectively immobilised by cross tying.  We can keep horses suitably still without the need to cross-tie which means they are happier horses which in turn aids healing.

Injured horse

Wound Management

DURING the early stages of healing some wounds need quite intense management which can be very time consuming, time that the working owner cannot put in during the day.

WOUNDS may need flushing or debriding, dressings changing and granulation tissue. We also work to reduce the formation of scar tissue and skin scarring.  


Injury Prevention

CONDITIONING and strengthening work is not just for the injured or compromised horse. By undergoing a training programme that promotes that all-important core strength and ensures correct locomotion, horses are fitter and so more able to cope with the stresses and strains imposed upon them.

WE OFTEN work with horses that do not actually have any physical issues, however minor, presenting, but just to ensure that they are properly and fully conditioned prior to going in training or starting the competition season. 


Equine Therapies Available at Equine Management and Training

ALONGSIDE the therapy skills that we offer, we have a wonderful support network comprising some of the UK's most reputable practitioners in their fields of veterinary physiotherapy, chiropractic and osteopathy from all over the country. In many instances horses are set to us at the suggestion of or referred by a veterinary surgeon but if this is not the case, we always consult with the treating vet and must be in receipt of all veterinary reports before a equine rehabilitation programme is commenced. 

PULSED Electromagnetic Therapy (PEMT) uses a range of different frequencies to help stimulate different cells in the body, helping them to work more efficiently.

SO whilst such therapy can be used to promote general health and well-being, it can also be used for rehabilitation and as a healing assistant, helping to aid the repair of soft tissue injuries, reducing inflammation, for pain relief and even the healing of fractures

THE rug pictured is the ACTIVO-MED Combi Pro from FMBs Therapy Systems and provides both PEMT and Massage therapy.  To this we can add legs wraps and/hoof boots, or these can be run as stand alone therapy applications.


MASSAGE therapy is so often just associated with the promotion of relaxation/release of tension and the maintenance of general health but it's more important benefits include:

  • tone and warm up muscles pre-exercise
  • post-exercise cool down to help prevent tightening and muscle stiffness
  • improve/promote circulation, thus oxygenating the muscles
  • elimination of waste products
  • promote lymphatic drainage
  • promote venous drainage


which leads to improved joint mobility, improved respiratory function, softness and suppleness of muscles as well as improved general condition (skin, coat, hooves).

MASSAGE is provided either via a rug or manually. When applied via a rug non-percussive vibrations are delivered by strategically placed modules which work on key muscle groups at a pre-set pressure and sequence. Massage can be Cycloidal Vibration Therapy (CVT) which is multi-directional or Cyclonic which is two-way. However a machine cannot tell you whether a muscle is still tight or detect changes (whether positive or negative) that may be occurring so hand massage allows us to literally feel what is happening as a horse soon gives his responses to varying pressures!


MAGNETIC therapy,has been used "since time began" as a method of pain relief. It is a completely non-invasive therapy to promotes the body's natural healing processes.  It is not the magnets that actually do the healing but they create an environment in the body that helps to speed up the natural processes of removing inflammation and restoring circulation.  It is believed this is achieved when the blood stream and nerves are stimulated as the blood passes through the magnetic field.


LASER [Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation] therapy can stimulate and so help improve the healing of open wounds and ulcers even when there is skin deficit. . Soft tissue injuries such as to tendons, ligaments, muscles and periosteum also respond well. 


KINESIOLOGY taping is different from any other type of bandaging in that the special tape used does not compress or limit movement. Whilst traditional bandaging support compresses tissue kinesio tape actually lifts [decompresses] the skin allowing/facilitating increased blood flow and lymphatic drainage both of which are important factors in the healing process. And because there is no compression the is much reduced pressure on the nerves which helps to manage and reduce pain. The special tape used allows complete mobility so can be used on a moving horse.  Use of kinesio tape is said to decreases the formation of adhesions. 


Injury Prevention

CONDITIONING and strengthening work is not just for the injured or compromised horse. By undergoing a training programme that promotes that all-important core strength and ensures correct locomotion, horses are fitter and so more able to cope with the stresses and strains imposed upon them.

WE OFTEN work with horses that do not actually have any physical issues, however minor, presenting, but just to ensure that they are properly and fully conditioned prior to going in training or starting the competition season. 


Whatever your requirements, please contact us for further information.


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