Have you ever worked with a physical therapist following an injury or surgery? These therapists are committed to making sure you get back to your daily activities and have the best quality of life possible. You probably received a sheet of new exercises each week, and the therapist went over them with you to make sure you knew how to perform them correctly to build up muscle. Many times your therapist makes a plan with your surgeon or doctor to make sure everyone is in agreement on the correct plan of action. Sounds like a team effort, right?

This is what a rehab specialist does for your horse. Just as your PT talks to your doctor, an equine rehab specialist discusses injuries, soreness, and weak areas with your veterinarian and plans a course of action to get your horse back into competition.

Why Send Your Horse to a Rehab Facility?

Summer Terry petting a horse at equine rehab therapy
When you leave your horse at an equine rehab therapy facility, a rehab specialist will evaluate your horse’s wellbeing as a whole and ensure its every need is met. Photo courtesy Superior Therapy LLC

Equine rehab specialists understand how important your equine partner is to you and want them to heal up correctly and as quickly as possible. They are trained to carry out post-surgery care recommended by your vet such as bandage changes, hand walking, monitoring vital signs, watching for fever and assessing swelling. These things can be very overwhelming to owners who are not familiar with how an area should look after a medical procedure, so being able to leave their horse in the care of professionals eliminates a lot of stress from owners.

Most equine rehab facilities also specialize in fitness and correct conditioning. They are trained to look for weak areas of muscle and to accurately build an exercise program to create a foundation of fitness for each horse that comes in. A visit to a rehab facility is great for horses that need to develop more topline, range of motion, lung capacity, better fitness and muscle tone. They can get your horse fit in half the time it would take you riding every day, and with specialized equipment, conditioning at a facility helps eliminate unwanted stress on joints, tendons and ligaments. Many horse owners work a daily job, so their time is limited by work schedules, weather, family obligations and other things that get in the way of riding their horse as often as they would like. That’s where a great rehab facility can help you keep your horse in ideal running shape.

Popular Equipment for Equine Rehab Therapy

Most rehab facilities use different types of hydrotherapy, depending upon preference. Aquatreds are great for increasing muscle mass and stride length while keeping the horse mostly weightless during the workout. It’s great for any horse but it makes all the difference in post-surgery, injured, or horses in chronic pain. Being able to get fit and in top condition without adding extra inflammation that comes with a lot of hard riding has been a game changer for horses with chronic issues. In many cases, the use of an aquatred has added years of performance to horses that might otherwise have been retired and unusable.

horse walking out of hydrotherapy spa at equine rehab therapy
Most equine rehab facilities offer a variety of hydrotherapy options, such as an aquatred and cold saltwater spa. Photo courtesy Superior Therapy LLC

Another great hydrotherapy option is a cold-water salt spa. While most aquatreds use warm water to heat the muscle tissue to provide more flexibility, a salt spa is usually kept at around 38 degrees to break down inflammation in the lower leg and hoof area. This helps with pain as well.

To help with soft tissue tears, pain and circulation, facilities turn to their favorite choice in PEMF therapy. There are different types, but the goal in mind is the same—increase circulation while decreasing inflammation and pain. PEMF has shown great results in regenerating soft tissue, helping with bone remodeling and oxidizing the blood.

Most facilities will also create a plan of exercises and stretches to transition your horse back to competition. Equine physical therapists are here to help you and your horse reach your competition goals. Through proper fitness, many injuries can be prevented. By working directly with your vet to figure the best course of action, a physical therapist can provide the best care possible for your horse.


Summer Terry is the owner of Superior Therapy LLC. After treating chronic pain in people for more than a decade, she combined her love of horse and therapy to create a facility that treats both horses and humans. She is also a huge advocate for education and offers internships, training courses, and videos educating the industry about therapy. Learn more at https://www.superiortherapyllc.com/ Email comments or questions to [email protected]

1 Comment

  1. What education, certifications, or other qualifications distinguishes a “equine physical therapist” and a “physical therapist”?

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