top of page

What the law says

For all matters relating to maintenance and maximising performance of the equine, prior veterinary referral is no longer required. Outside of routine/maintenance care veterinarian consent will be required to see and treat all horses. This is a legal requirement as per the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 and Exemptions Order 2015.

RCVS Setting Standards.png

The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 and Exemptions Order 2015

Physiotherapy, Osteopathic Therapy and Chiropractic Therapy

(Updated 5th April 2023) 


19.19  Musculoskeletal therapists are part of the vet-led team. Animals cared for or treated by musculoskeletal therapists must be registered with a veterinary surgeon. Musculoskeletal therapists carry out a range of manipulative therapies, including physiotherapy, osteopathy and chiropractic therapy. 


19.20  As per the Veterinary Surgeons (Exemptions) Order 2015 (which revokes the Veterinary Surgery (Exemptions) Order 1962) remedial treatment by ‘physiotherapy’ requires delegation by a veterinary surgeon who has first examined the animal. The Order allows the treatment of an animal by physiotherapy if the following conditions are satisfied:


(1) the first condition is that the person providing the treatment is aged 18 or over

(2) the second condition is that the person is acting under the direction of a qualified person who—

(a) has examined the animal, and

(b) has prescribed the treatment of the animal by physiotherapy.


19.21  The Order specifies that a qualified person “means a person who is registered in the Register of Veterinary Surgeons or the Supplementary Veterinary Register”.


19.22  'Physiotherapy' is interpreted as including all kinds of manipulative therapy. It therefore includes osteopathy and chiropractic but would not, for example, include acupuncture or aromatherapy. It is up to the professional judgement of the veterinary surgeon to determine whether and when a clinical examination should be repeated before musculoskeletal treatment is continued.


19.23  The delegating veterinary surgeon should ensure, before delegation, that they are confident that the musculoskeletal therapist is appropriately qualified and competent; indicators can include membership of a voluntary register with associated standards of education and conduct, supported by a disciplinary process. As the RCVS does not regulate musculoskeletal therapists it cannot recommend specific voluntary registers.


19.24   Musculoskeletal maintenance care for a healthy animal, for instance massage, does not require delegation by a veterinary surgeon. However, the animal must still be registered with a veterinary surgeon. Maintenance should cease and the owner of the animal should be asked to take their animal to a veterinary surgeon for clinical examination at the first sign that there may be any underlying injury, disease or pathology. Alternatively, the musculoskeletal therapist may ask the client for formal consent to disclose any concerns to the veterinary surgeon that has their animal under their care (RCVS, 2023).


RCVS, 2023. Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. [Online] 
Available at:

bottom of page