What is equine osteopathy?

Equine osteopathy focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and rehabilitation of musculoskeletal disorders, and the effects of these conditions on a horses’ general health.

Treatment consists of a variety of techniques, including articulation of joints, soft tissue work, equine massage, stretching, facial release and manipulation as appropriate.

What can it treat?

  • Back Pain
  • Sacro-iliac lesion
  • Cold back
  • Stiffness
  • Rehab after injury
  • Head tossing
  • Reduced level of performance
  • Changes in behaviour – bucking, rearing, refusing to jump, kicking
  • Reluctance to trot / canter on certain reins
  • Diagnosed conditions, such as degenerative arthritis and lameness

In many cases an animal has learnt to compensate for pain or musculoskeletal discomfort over time, for example, from an old injury in the leg. This manifests itself into pain elsewhere i.e. along the spine.


How will my horse be after the treatment?

With horses it is normally advised that they are turned out or just undertake light exercise for a few days after treatment, although this may vary.

Advice is also given on how to manage any conditions or problems between treatments and exercises provided if suitable.

What should I expect from a treatment?

Equine osteopathy is holistic – it does not just focus on backs! During a consultation the animal is checked from the hooves upwards and from the nose to the tail, so it is all encompassing.

A typical appointment will run like this:

  • A detailed case history will be taken in order to find any previous injuries or illness that may be responsible for the pain or discomfort in the horse.
  • A visual examination will be carried out which involves walking, trotting and circling the horse in-hand.
  • An examination will then take place which involves evaluating the whole animal including joints and muscles.
  • The area of pain and the root cause is treated.

What relationship is there between osteopaths and vets?

Under UK law, anyone treating a horse who is not a veterinary surgeon needs to obtain veterinary permission before doing so.

An equine osteopath will be checking for unlevelness which may / may not be treated, but any lameness observed is referred back to the veterinary surgeon.


The title of osteopath is protected, meaning your practitioner has normally undergone a 4 or 5 year qualification to a minimum of BSc level and also works in human practice. There is a register to confirm this at the General Osteopathic Council, www.osteopathy.org.uk. The term physiotherapist is protected within the human field but in the animal world anyone can call themselves a veterinary physiotherapist. Therefore it’s best to check the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Animal Therapy, www.acpat.org.