An estimated 1.6 million American households own at least one horse, and all of them will need equine care at some point. Whether your horse leads an active life of sport or a simple life of grazing and trail rides, illnesses and injuries can occur.
In some cases, a single visit to your equine vet will set you in the right direction. However, a more serious or consequential health problem can require full horse rehabilitation.
What can you expect from rehabbing your horse? What steps can you take to ensure they get the best recovery possible?
Read on for our guide to the horse rehabilitation process.
Reasons for Horse Rehabilitation
How you approach caring for your horse during rehabilitation will vary based on the source of their problems. Let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons for horse rehabilitation and signs that it’s time to consult an equine vet.
Horses are at high risk of injury, particularly when they are working or sporting animals. Skipping regular vet appointments can also increase the risk of injury if your horse has an underlying condition, like a tilted pelvis, that you aren’t aware of.
Some of the most common horse injuries, regardless of breed or lifestyle, include:
- Foot abscess
- Pulled muscles
- Tendon injuries
Horses have a tendency to mask pain. If you notice an unusual change in their gait, a decrease in energy, or irritability, talk to your equine vet about possible causes.
Horses are social creatures that can carry and pass around diseases, just like humans. Fortunately, there are vaccines for many common horse illnesses, including West Nile Virus and Equine Herpes Virus. However, you can’t protect against all illnesses, particularly when you consider bacterial and fungal sources that your horse can come into contact with.
There are many signs that your horse has fallen ill, including changes in appetite, coat quality, energy levels, and breathing patterns. Some health problems, like intestinal diseases and hernias, can cause abdominal swelling. The longer you wait to treat your horse’s illness, the more likely it can become that they’ll need intensive rehab to recover.
Some forms of rehabilitation focus more on a horse’s behavioral issues than their physical health. In fact, behavioral issues can lead to physical problems, especially if your horse is easily spooked, refuses to eat, or experiences extreme stress.
Oftentimes, horse owners discover the possibility of trauma after purchasing a new horse. We offer pre-purchase evaluations but always encourage new owners to schedule a checkup soon after purchase to determine any necessary or preventative care.
The Pillars of Horse Rehabilitation
Though the specifics of your horse rehabilitation program will vary, the basics are the same. Here are the pillars of caring for your horse when they need restorative treatment.
If your horse develops a sudden injury or illness, the first step is to look for an emergency horse vet near you. In many cases, emergency care can make the difference between a fast recovery and a long road to rehabilitation.
At High Country Vet, we understand how critical it is to begin care right away in the face of a life-threatening emergency. We offer 24-hour equine care so you don’t lose precious hours or days before beginning treatment.
One of the most important things you can do when caring for your horse is to work with an experienced vet to develop a long-term plan. This will include scheduling professional treatment, but it will also include any education you need to provide at-home care.
Horses in need of rehab can’t continue with their typical day-to-day right away. Talk to your vet about appropriate levels of activity and how to keep an injured or sick horse comfortable and at ease.
Rest and Recovery
Trying to get a typically active horse to rest isn’t always easy. Horses that grow bored or understimulated can grow destructive, pulling down hay nets, kicking over buckets, and chewing on wood.
If your horse isn’t taking well to their time of rest, talk to your vet about medications that can reduce their stress levels and allow them to relax. Although you may feel compelled to let your horse out to socialize or run the pasture early, always follow the timeline developed with your vet.
A thorough horse rehabilitation program will involve ongoing treatment. This can include specific treatments like standing surgeries and cryotherapy. It can also include alternative practices like chiropractic treatment or acupuncture.
In some cases, your vets at High Country Vet can come to you. While not all treatments are available via house call, we believe in limiting your horse’s distress and relocation as much as possible.
Diet and Exercise
Proper nutrition is crucial during rehabilitation. The right diet and supplement regime can prevent deficiencies and weight gain while your horse reduces or ceases regular physical activity.
As you progress through your horse’s rehabilitation program, there will come a time when you can start slowly reintroducing exercise. Some forms of physical therapy may require veterinary supervision, while others require education so you can help your horse recuperate at home.
Depending on the nature of your horse’s health problems, they may now be more susceptible to future problems. For example, a horse with musculoskeletal injuries could be at higher risk of sprains or joint pain as they age.
Our equine wellness plans provide customized and preventative care. We take into account your horse’s lifestyle and health history to ensure that we’re treating and monitoring their health the right way.
Call High Country Veterinary Services for Horse Rehabilitation
If you’re one of the millions of Americans who own a horse, it’s important to stay on top of their veterinary care. Horse rehabilitation can feel like a long and daunting process, but with the right equine vets, it can yield rewarding results.
If you’re looking for a Steamboat Springs equine vet, High Country Veterinary Services is here to help. Since 2013, we’ve been providing on-site, emergency, and mobile vet care for large animals with an equine specialty. Contact us today to schedule your next appointment.