How to Keep Your Horse's Joints Jumpin'

December 03, 2020

woman petting older horse

If your horse is stiff, has developed a short stride and just not quite himself, he might be dealing with aging joints. Most horses will experience with stiff joints during their lives, but this condition can often be managed. If you suspect that your horse has joint pain, the following strategies might help keep him more comfortable.

Understanding the problem in Horses

Stiff joints primarily result from inflammation caused by gradual wearing and use. This inflammation contributes to the degeneration of jointsurfaces and thinning of joint cartilage due to aging.

All of this amounts in more trauma to the joints, which in turn creates more inflammation. If your horse’s joint surfaces wear unevenly, it can create pressure in certain areas within the joint. The result is the pain and stiffness.

Keep in mind that stiff joints won’t just affect older horses, though they are more likely to develop this condition. Other factors like conformation, joint injuries and even the type and intensity of the work that your horse is doing can also contribute to stiff joints.

There are many ways to manage joint stiffness and loss of cartilage effectively, and many horses can continue to be ridden and compete, even with varying degrees of cartilage loss.

Work With Your Vet

If you suspect that your horse has cartilage loss, start by connecting with your vet for an official diagnosis and treatment options. Joint injections of corticosteroids and hyaluronic acid can reduce joint inflammation and allow the joints to move smoothly again. Your vet may also recommend surgical fusion, pain medication and arthroscopic surgery.

Assess Your Horse’s Diet

Your horse’s diet can contribute to inflammation, worsening joint pain and stiffness. Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties, while omega-6 fatty acids can contribute to inflammation. Ideally, omega-3s and omega-6s should be fed in a 3:1 ratio. Many oils, like vegetable oils, are high in omega-6 fatty acids, so you should avoid them. Assess your horse’s grain and supplement content and make any adjustments needed to achieve the ideal ratio.

Make Some Management Changes

Some changes in how you manage your horse can make a big difference in his comfort. Focus on maximizing turnout time so that he can move around freely. Walking around in a paddock can increase circulation and help to reduce inflammation.

Make sure that your horse receives regular farrier care, too. Issues like long toes and unbalanced feet will only make joint stiffness worse.

Adjust Your Training Routine

How you train your horse can also contribute to his comfort. Start by riding on footing that offers some shock absorption, like a sand ring. Avoid hard surfaces like concrete or packed dirt, which increase joint concussion and inflammation.

When you ride, give your horse a long warmup to promote circulation and reduce stiffness. You may need to reevaluate your horse’s workload, especially if he gets sore during and after workouts. While he may need to step down a level and do some less intense work, with proper management he may be able to continue schooling and competing.

Feed a Joint Supplement

A quality joint supplement like can also help to support your horse’s joint health and comfort. Many joint supplements contain MSM, which helps to reduce inflammation and support joint function. Hyaluronic acid is also a popular ingredient, since it supports the synovial fluid within your horse’s joints, allowing for easier, more fluid joint movement. Joint supplements aren’t all made the same, so be sure to look for a supplement with effective levels of these important ingredients.

Flexify-HA has a winning combination of hyaluronic acid, MSM and Vitamin C to prolong the life of your horse's joints and cartilage while reducing costs associated with vet visits for joint issues.

Joint pain and stiffness don’t have to end your horse's career, but they will require attentive, comprehensive maintenance. With a multi-pronged approach to dealing with joint stiffness and cartilage loss, you can help to keep your horse comfortable and moving at his best.

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