International Association of Animal Therapists
Case Study


Intermittent Lameness in an Endurance Horse

Asti is an 18-year-old Thoroughbred, purchased for pleasure rides and competitive endurance riding straight off the track as a 3-year-old. At the time of my initial consultation (25/01/2020), Asti was experiencing intermittent lameness issues picked up on 2 failed vetting’s during competitive rides and was on a four-weekly remedial shoeing cycle as per the vet’s recommendations. It was hoped that remedial shoeing in conjunction with sports massage therapy would aid Asti’s recovery so she can continue competing and pleasure rides.

Asti has a history of metabolic issues, which presents as if she were ‘tying up’ (Exertional Rhabdomyolysis) and as such, is treated as if she had this condition. Asti is managed by controlling environmental stress factors, a strict exercise plan, and medication (when experiencing these episodes). She was also recovering from a bout of cellulitis when I first met her.

Therapeutic approach to Asti’s therapy sessions needed to carefully consider multiple factors. The compensatory effects of her ‘tying up’ episodes were evident upon static and dynamic assessment. There were significant signs of soreness and tension when palpated across the hindquarters, along the back, and triceps. During her dynamic assessment, she presented with a shortened choppy stride and failed to track up effectively. Despite no muscles being present in the lower limb, muscle contraction is vital for lymphatic draining, thus clearing the oedema that accumulates in the area, which was apparent in the limb previously affected by cellulitis. Now the initial infection had cleared, massage therapy would complement her recovery. Prolonged periods of shifting weight off the infected limb to reduce pain created muscle compensation on the opposite hindquarter. These factors coupled with the now intermittent lameness made for a careful plan of action.

Asti was initially treated with soft tissue massage and trigger point therapy every two weeks. A series of stretches were suggested to the owner to perform post-exercise to prolong muscular suppleness between sessions. By sessions three and four I implemented some joint mobilisations.

By my third visit, Asti was able to trot downhill, which she had previously been unable to do for a long time. By treatment four and five, Asti was confidently moving downhill and over stones, no longer tipping when ridden, had a greater stride length, and was actively engaging her hindquarters when out hacking. Her owner noted vast improvements in her way of going and overall posture in the stable.  

Over the coming months, a team approach to Asti’s recovery was implanted with careful input from her farrier, vet, and myself. She regained fitness, remained sound, and followed a fitness programme.

Although Covid-19 put a stop to the 2020 competitive season, Asti is now back out completing pleasure rides during the 2021 season. She is maintained with monthly sessions using soft tissue manipulation, myofascial release, mobilisation, and positional release techniques as and when necessary. There has been no reoccurrence of tying up or cellulitis. We are now all hopeful that some competitive rides will be on the cards for her!


A case study conducted by IAAT Member Eloise Campion (member number 1756)

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