Getting a horse back to fitness and functionality following an injury is a painstaking process. It requires excellent horsemanship so that the patient is treated as an individual, his or her, needs and temperament are understood and managed correctly.

Exercise programs have to be specifically tailored and most importantly, monitored as to their efficacy, allowing for adjustment if necessary.

This calls for personnel with years of experience in this field of equine rehabilitation having dealt with many different types of injuries in many different types of horses. At Peasebrook we are fortunate to have a very experienced team and we have the luxury of all the onsite veterinary diagnostic facilities. 

The majority of equine injuries are not best treated by strict box rest as this leads to muscle wastage and loss of mobility, not to mention the fact that prolonged confinement will not suit some horse’s temperament.

Some owners will understandably find hand-walking of their unexploded five year old warmblood, rather daunting. We can safely carry this out at Peasebrook and can also employ our Equi-Tred treadmill for controlled walking either on the flat or on a gradient.

Preparing a patient for the cold spa

Preparing a patient for the cold spa

Entering the spa having been fitted with a nappy.

Entering the spa having been fitted with a nappy.

Patient happily receiving therapy

Patient happily receiving therapy

It is impossible to describe all the conditions we deal with as there are so many different presentations especially horses that have suffered a traumatic incident such as a fall or road traffic accident. These cases can have all manner of pain, muscle spasm, dysfunction, muscle wastage etc. Generally speaking the sooner a horse receives treatment after a trauma, the better.

There is no substitute for "knowing what works" but we also incorporate new treatments as they come along in order to evaluate them. There is very little published work on results of different treatments and therapies mainly due to the unique features of many cases, with many variables, making direct case comparisons difficult. This means that one seldom gets enough case numbers with a similar enough profile to be able to apply statistics to the data. Success of a case is judged by elimination of lameness, return to previous level of performance in a dressage horse for example, or number of races completed and level of prize money achieved in the racing industry.

Many of our rehabilitation patients are recovering from back treatments ranging from dorsal spinous process resection to facet joint medication and release of muscle spasm. With surgical cases, wound healing is the initial concern and often we cross-tie horses to prevent them lying down and disrupting sutures. Thereafter we start exercise to prevent unwanted adhesions and promote mobility. Horses with primary muscular spasm are treated in a variety of ways including deep muscle massage, acupuncture, tissue injection and osteopathic manipulation. They then enter a ground schooling program; we use Pessoa and Equi-Ami training aids which encourage the horse to work in the correct outline to promote the right muscle development to support the vertebral column. We also encourage patients to work long and low to allow stretching, flexing and enabling the horse to find a natural balance. Close scrutiny of the horse at exercise allows us to assess symmetry of action on both reins.

Equine flexor tendon injury is an area of enormous economic significance due to its widespread occurrence; some studies have shown that between 30% and 40% of racehorses sustain an injury at some point during their career. This results in capital depreciation of the animal, loss of earnings to the owner, costs of rehabilitation to the owner and loss of earnings to the trainer and jockey. In many cases this type of injury will keep the horse off the track for 18 months. The understandable temptation, on economic grounds, is to have the horse turned-out to grass as soon as possible and to leave him there until he is ready to train again. Unfortunately this will result in further damage, in many cases, as horses gallop around often on firm ground and the healing mechanisms don’t stand a chance. Initial confinement, support dressings, and anti-inflammatory therapy are essential to prevent excessive scar tissue formation; fibrous scar tissue is much less elastic than healthy tendon tissue and so is undesirable. Implantation of mesenchymal stem cells into the injury is the most scientific approach to repairing tendon, and certainly the ultrasound images back this up.

Unfortunately many cases treated with this technology have, in our opinion, not been given sufficient time to allow maturation of the repair and so have reinjured. Stem cell treatment has therefore been unfairly dismissed in some quarters as being expensive and ineffective. Again there has not been any worthwhile scientific study on stem cell therapy of equine tendons to date and so the jury is still out. 

We can offer this treatment coupled with a sensible rehabilitation program to give your horse the best chance of a successful repair. Controlled exercise, following an initial period of confinement to allow primary repair, is also a valid way to proceed with a tendon injury. The fact is that, to date, no therapy has scientifically been shown to be better than this approach. At Peasebrook we use our treadmill to give the horse controlled work before progressing to ridden exercise. During the exercise program it is important to monitor the tendon repair via ultrasound imaging especially when stepping up the work levels.

More recently we have been achieving great success using MBST therapy as a non-invasive way to promote soft tissue regeneration. This treatment utilizes magnetic fields, a similar technology to that used in MRI scanning.

Upward fixation of the patella or locking of the stifles is a condition that can often be resolved by proactive physical therapy and exercise. Once any underlying orthopaedic problems have been addressed the horse is worked to improve hind limb strength and increase range of movement. This process takes about three weeks on average. Our nutritionist advises on diet to promote muscle development and as with all our rehab cases, their foot balance and shoeing are optimised. We only advocate medial patella ligament desmotomy on unresponsive patients.

Spirit T ridden by her owner Jessica Mendoza

Spirit T ridden by her owner Jessica Mendoza

Testimonial from Jessica Mendoza:

In October 2016 Spirit T suffered an injury in Barcelona at the Nations Cup Finals. She had been successful at the highest level including World Cups, Nations Cups and European Championships. She went to Rio 2016 as travelling reserve. Her injury was deemed by vets as career ending. A scan later confirmed that the injury was the end of the road for this fabulous mare.

We heard of Peasebrook Rehabilitation centre through some friends and sent Spirit T to Tim Galer.

The recovery has been astounding and she is back in work and ready to compete. She was in the ice spa twice a day and afterwards kept moving on the treadmill. Peasaebrook is a small rehabilitation centre with Tim Galer as the vet overseeing every inch of the recovery. I cannot speak highly enough of our results with him. And to add to our good fortune Tim was able to get 2 Embryos from Spirit during her rehabilitation. Amazing!

I can only say that due to Peasebrook we have Spirit T ready to compete again.

Well done and a big thanks to Peasebrook and Tim Galer.