I’m a Chartered Physiotherapist, of course I’m going to recommend physio for a horse on box rest!
Being serious though, I struggle to understand why someone would say that their horse doesn’t need treatment when he’s on box rest, unless they’re managing to do all the grooming, mobilisation and walking out exercise suggested here. If I was on bed rest I’d be incredibly grateful to someone for moving the bits of me that were stiffening up, and massaging the muscles that were starting to get tight or sore.
As a human, we are often upset if someone is discharged after surgery without any physio input. Yet it seems that’s accepted as the ‘norm’ for horses in many places. Even if it’s just one visit at the beginning of the box rest, physio is likely to be very helpful. They can advise you on the best exercises to be doing for your horse. The physio will take into account your horses' specific needs as an individual.
By ‘physio’ I mean physical therapy. There are a wide range of qualifications. Personally I would generally choose a practitioner who qualified initially in the human field, or who has qualifications equivalent to that. The assessment skills of the practitioner, their knowledge of a wide range of pathologies, and their willingness to work as part of a team, are as important as their treatment skills. In the UK you can find Registered Animal Musculoskeletal Practitioners at www.rampregister.org, and Chartered Physiotherapists at www.acpat.org.
Your vet might be offering ongoing treatment for your horse, perhaps in the form of medication, or shockwave therapy. There are also a variety of treatment tools that you can buy or hire to treat your horse yourself, usually under the guidance of your vet or physio. These might include a massage gun, water treadmill, laser, ultrasound, ArcEquine, Equiband or more. If you’d like to know more about these and whether one of them might help your horse, I suggest having a chat with your vet and your physio.
© Sue Palmer, The Horse Physio 2021
Treating your horse with care, connection, curiosity and compassion