Once a horse has been diagnosed with having arthritis, vets will often refer the patient to a physiotherapist.
“Physiotherapy can help in many ways,” says equine physiotherapist Amanda Sutton. “Stretching and suppling exercises can improve a horse’s flexibility.
“Arthritis can lead to muscle weakness as the body compensates for the pain in the arthritic joint. We can help this by stimulating the muscles through massage.
“There are also techniques to reduce pain and inflammation, such as magnetic therapy and cold packs,” she says.
There are exercises you can do yourself, but it’s wise to ask a physiotherapist to demonstrate how each one is carried out.
“To increase the mobility of the leg, try suppling exercises. These are different to stretching ones, as the aim is only to take the leg to a comfortable range.
For instance, extend the leg forward to the end of its range and hold for about 15 seconds.
“You could also gently rotate the leg in circular movements. It is important to never stretch a tight, arthritic joint, especially if it is inflamed. The area is stiff for a reason and you could do more harm than good. “
“Massage can be carried out by the owner,” says Amanda. “For instance, it a horse has hock arthritis, he would benefit from massage around the hindquarters, where there may be extra strain on the muscles.”
For further information contact The Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Animal Therapy (tel: 01926 863801)