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Rehabilitation and Recovery for Sport Horses: Getting Back in the Game

Rehabilitation and Recovery for Sport Horses: Getting Back in the Game

While we know that our hard-working horses can get hurt sometimes, what can we expect while they are recovering and how can we help? Here, our Versailles equine vets talk about the rehabilitation of sports horses and how you can help them get moving again.

Horse Rehab & Recovery After Injury

While we try to do everything possible to help our horse stay happy and healthy, the unexpected can happen. If you find yourself in a situation where your horse has sustained an injury or undergone surgery it will be important to work together with the vet to ensure a comfortable and successful recovery and rehabilitation.

Beginning Equine Sports Rehabilitation

Once your equine vet has been able to provide a diagnosis for your horse they will then make recommendations for treatment and rehabilitation.

Soft Tissue

If your horse has sustained a soft tissue injury, the first stage (ranging from 1 to 3 weeks) will include rest and icing the affected area.  Icing can be anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes but does not surpass a half hour.

Once the initial stage is complete you can move on to other more hands-on types of rehabilitation such as physical therapy, shockwave, or ultrasound therapy.


Your vet may use diagnostic imaging to make a diagnosis of joint issues. If this is the case then your vet will likely prescribe anti-inflammatory medications and recommend physical therapy and exercise to help get your horse feeling great again.

Hoof Capsule

If your horse has sustained an injury to their proximal (upper) suspensory ligament, the hoof capsule may be behind the issue. A horse's hoof needs to be balanced 365 degrees, If they are not on a consistent shoeing cycle it can lead to weak points and pressure points which can cause damage to the tissues and inflammation.

These issues can also occur if the horse has been shoed by a new farrier or if they received a new type of shoe. 

Equine Rehabilitation Plans

All horse owners want to know that their horse is okay and that their horse will be as comfortable as possible while also making a full recovery from the injury.

A sports horse rehab plan can help to put a horse owner's mind at ease knowing that all areas of care are covered and what to expect along the way.

In the early stages, your vet will likely allow light stretching and moving while staying in the stall.

Once it has been determined that they can stand without trouble they will be allowed to move into a light exercise program.

How quickly the horse moves through each stage will depend on the severity of the injury and how well your horse is responding to rehab.

Working With Equine Veterinary Professionals

An equine vet will be vital to your horse's health and recovery when injured. The vet will help to diagnose the issue allowing for a proper treatment plan to be formed. 

Throughout treatment, the vet will also track the progress and make adjustments as necessary. The vet will also be able to spot any potential issues or complications that may arise during rehabilitation.

Monitoring Your Horse's Progress

Equine vets will often use physical methods of monitoring a horse's progress through rehabilitation. This can be done using a number of different tools to help measure the range of motion, monitor symmetry and measure swollen joints.

Preventing Future Injuries

While there are options to help get your horse back up and moving if they've sustained an injury, the best plan is always to try to avoid injuries when possible.

One way that you can help decrease the odds of accidents is to spend some time building your horse’s core, through different forms of exercise and work and on a regular basis.

It is crucial to keep all aspects of your horse healthy including their muscular and cardiovascular systems as well as their hooves, ligaments, tendons, and bones.

Reintroducing Physical Activity

When it's time to finally begin allowing your horse to move around again it may be beneficial to use a three-month back-to-work plan.

This plan can look something like tack walking, trotting and eventually canter sets. Increasing the duration of each as the three months go on and your horse proves able.

If your horse has shown a steady increase in their abilities by the end of the three months they will then be able to begin slowly including their regular working duties again.

Your horse may also benefit from various rehab techniques and equipment used in equine rehabilitation centers and by equine vets such as physical rehab, underwater treadmills, heat, ice and shockwave therapy.

It's important to note that the time it takes for your horse to recover will depend greatly on your horse and the type and severity of the injury. Speak with your equine vet to get an idea of how long rehabilitation may take for your horse.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding animals, or professional advice regarding equine regulations. For the diagnosis of your animal's condition and help to navigate regulations governing the care and transportation of equine animals please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you have questions about your horse's recovery after injury? Contact Bluegrass Equine Surgery to speak with our experienced equine vets. 

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Whether you are looking to get involved with our rapidly-growing practice, or are seeking equine veterinary care, Bluegrass Equine Surgery welcomes you to get in touch. 

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