Physiotherapist, chiropractor, osteopath ... who does what exactly?

When something is the matter with your horse, you want to resolve it as best as possible. Often a veterinarian is initially called in, who will investigate what may be the cause. In many cases, the vet could help you further, but sometimes a horse has a physical problem that would benefit from being seen by a specialist. But which specialist should you call in and what exactly are the differences? 



An animal physiotherapist has completed basic human physiotherapy training. Animal physiotherapy is not considered alternative medicine and has a protected professional title. A physiotherapist is concerned with the musculoskeletal system of a human or animal, in this case of the horse. The musculoskeletal system includes the muscles, ligaments, tendons, joints and the nervous system. Movement therapy may reduce stiffness and improve muscle strength, stability, mobility and coordination. Physiotherapists may also use massages and physiotechnical applications (such as heat, cold, light and electrotherapy). 

More information about recognized animal physiotherapists can be found on the website of the NVFD (Dutch Association for Animal Physiotherapy) 



Chiropractic for horses (from FES, Focus on the Equine Spine) is a study that can only be followed by certified veterinarians or animal physiotherapists. It is intended as an additional therapy to conventional medicine. A chiropractor focuses on the movements and limitations of a horse’s spine and pelvis. By treating the spine, the chiropractor corrects neurological, muscular and joint problems. During treatment they use manual treatment techniques, including manipulative techniques (manipulations). Chiropractic does not focus on one problem, but considers the whole body (holistic approach). 

More information about the recognized chiropractor training for horses can be found on the FES website 



For the study to become an osteopath for horses (ICREO, International College for Research on Equine Ostheopathy), again only people with a veterinarian or paraveterinarian diploma are admitted. Osteopathy for horses does not have a protected professional title, so in principle everyone could call themselves an osteopath. An osteopath focuses on the functions and mobility of joints and tissues throughout the body. It looks at the musculoskeletal system, the organs, circulatory system, skull and sacrum and the link between all of them (causal). An osteopath uses manual techniques during treatment. 

More information about training as an osteopath for horses can be found on the ICREO website 


Other therapies 

In addition to these three, many other therapies exist. In sports massage, for example, attention is paid to suppling and keeping the muscles loose by means of massage techniques. Another therapy that focuses on the muscles is dry needling. Needles are placed in certain muscle nodes to remedy muscle-related complaints. Cranioscral therapy focuses more on the brain, spine and the membranes surrounding the spine. It uses gentle manual techniques on the horse’s head. 


Which therapy you ultimately choose depends on which complaints your horse has and where the possible cause lies. But it also has to do with personal preference and experiences. You may have a good experience with a human physiotherapist, which will make you choose an equine physiotherapist more quickly. In addition, just as with choosing trainers or instructors, you will have therapists who suit you better or less well on a personal level. Take a good look at the schooling that the therapists have followed and whether they are accredited with a professional association. Not all professions have protected titles, so people can say that they have a certain profession but do not need to have received recognized schooling for this. Keep in mind that these will often be additional therapies. It is wise to have a good collaboration between owner, vet, farrier and various therapists in the case of specific problems. 

Leave a Reply