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8 Ways To Help Support Your Horse’s Joints

Whether you keep horses for pleasure, for work, or for competition, you’ll want to keep their joints healthy for as long as possible. While most horses will eventually experience some joint pain and stiffness, you can use these tips to help extend their healthy years.

1. Give foals time to grow.
Supporting your horse’s joint health begins in early life. Foals need exercise for healthy joint development and to help them maintain an ideal weight, but too much impact on growing joints can leave them more susceptible to injury which can lead to lifelong joint issues.

2. Watch your footing.
Hard surfaces like concrete increase the shock impact on your horse’s joints. Soft and uneven surfaces like sand and hilly areas can lead to soft tissue injuries. If you cannot avoid less-than-ideal surfaces, it’s best to gradually get your horse accustomed to different environments, as sudden exposure to unfamiliar types of surfaces can result in injury. In stables with concrete floors you can add stable pads or deep bedding to protect your horse’s joints.

3. Warm up before exercise.
Before even gentle, low-impact exercise, it’s essential to warm up your horse, starting with a walk. Walking helps loosen the synovial fluids that lubricate your horse’s joints and allow them to move smoothly.

4. Keep your horse at a healthy weight.
Excess weight puts a strain on your horse’s joints over time. Keep in mind that horses do not typically store weight in their belly like a human. Excess weight tends to be stored in fat pads over the shoulders, over the ribs, and rump. Your veterinarian can help you determine your horse’s ideal weight and, if necessary, a healthy weight loss plan to help them achieve it.

5. Provide adequate hoof care. Improper or uneven shoeing can change your horse’s posture and gait, possibly leading to injury or strain on the joints over time. Also remember to pick your horse’s hooves before and after rides and be on the lookout for common hoof problems.

6. Consider supplementation. Supplements that provide omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial to horses of all ages. They help reduce inflammation, protect the joints, and also support heart health and neurological function.

7. Maintain a consistent exercise routine. It’s common for horses to develop injuries after long periods of inactivity, especially in the spring after a long, quiet winter, or after recovering from an illness or injury. A conditioning program can help you get your horse back into shape and keep them safe from injury after a long period of inactivity.

8. Treat joint issues early. While there is no cure for osteoarthritis, you can manage pain and inflammation through treatment and even slow the progression of joint degeneration. Many horses with mild OA can still be ridden. Early treatment and exercise can help keep your horse’s joints flexible.