Physical Therapy and Re-Training

Many of the horses that come to the farm are high level performance horses that have suffered potentially career-ending injuries. The majority of these injuries heal with time, and the horses are able to resume their discipline at some level. Horses that come to the farm having been abused and neglected also benefit from the extensive rehabilitation program.  Brook Hill Farm begins by consulting with many professionals including, a veterinarian, a chiropractor, an acupuncturist, a massage therapist, a farrier, and a dentist. The staff and qualified participants work together to create a rehabilitation plan for each horse based on their individual needs.

A Typical Rehabilitation Project

One of the most common problems seen at the farm involves the horse’s stifle. This joint is similar to the knee in people. The stifle consists of 3 bones: the tibia, femur, and patella. The tibia is like a person’s shin bone, the femur is like the thigh bone and the patella is like the knee cap.

The horse is examined by a vet, and it is determined that the horse has an “upward fixation of the patella”.  In simple words this means that the patella, or knee cap, slides out of position.  This condition is seen in horses that have very upright or straight stifles, as you can see in this picture. In horses with straight stifles, it is easier for the patella to slide up and catch on the femur. This problem is also seen when horses have time off, as the muscles that hold the stifle in place become weak.  This leads to reduced tension on the patellar ligaments, and they become slack resulting in the sliding of the patella.

At Brook Hill Farm, drug therapy is used to help these horses.  In this picture, one of the College Interns is giving the horse a shot while being supervised by a licensed Veterinarian. Once the shot is given, the rehabilitation work begins.

The College Intern begins by working the horse in hand.  She walks and trots the horse up hills and over cavalletti poles making the stifle rotate and become stronger.  This is done until the horse appears sound.

Next the horse is worked under saddle, in order to add weight, continuing with hills and cavalletti work. As the horse becomes stronger, the time under saddle increases, and the horse is able to begin work in its previous job.

Once the horse has completed its rehabilitation, a committee meets and the horse is re-evaluated. A new job description is assigned to the horse to help with an appropriate placement. The horse in this picture was able to be free leased, and went back to competing over fences, one year later.

Many of the horses that complete the rehabilition program compete at high levels in various disciplines, including show jumping, dressage and eventing. Upon completion of the rehabilitation program from a broken sesamoid bone, this horse went on to compete on the A circuit in eventing with one of the College Interns. See the success stories page for more successfully rehabilitated horses!


There is no such thing as a bad horse.  Horses communicate to us through their body language, it is up to us to understand.  Horses at Brook Hill begin their journey being turned out with a herd, letting their herd mates teach them proper herd behavior.  Next, we start slow, doing groundwork and horse agility.  We begin on a lead, and eventually we do the obstacles at liberty, giving our horses choices.

Once they are able to participate fully in agility, we start them under saddle.  No matter what their job had been, we offer them choices.  For example, we have a wonderful dressage horse that prefers trail riding!

Adaptive Riding

We never know what job the horses prefer, until we give them a choice.  This horse was a national show hunter, competing all over the nation.  When given a choice, he prefers working in our Rockin’ Riders program!

Horses that can no longer compete also find a new calling at Brook Hill Farm. Horses are domesticated creatures that thrive when given a purpose. Some of these horses are serviceably sound and may be able to become teachers or help in equine assisted services helping children and adults experience the joy of horses. Brook Hill Farm provides a place for these horses to transition into the next phase of their life.

And finally horses that do not fully recover are offered a permanent home at Brook Hill Farm where they live out their natural lives in sanctuary in a peaceful Virginia setting, tended daily by the staff and volunteers.