During his career, your performance horse will face plenty of physical demands. Some of those most significant demands will be on his joints. Joint health is something that you’ll need to monitor continually, and joint issues can limit or end your horse’s career. Luckily, there are many ways you can support joint health in your performance horse from his early days in training through his retirement.
Focus on Joint Health Early On
The earlier you prioritize your horse’s joint health, the better his prognosis for the rest of his life and career. Focus on keeping your horse fit from the first days that you have him, and design his life so that he has plenty of turnout time and opportunities to move. Start implementing the following tips early to maximize your horse’s comfort and soundness throughout his life.
Structure Your Conditioning With Age in Mind
When it’s time to start working your horse, design your conditioning program considering his age. Make slow and steady progress and avoid overworking him. If you’re starting a young horse, keep in mind that his bones are still developing, so avoid repetitive work that can cause strain. Focus on fitness and only start introducing serious work once your horse’s body has matured and is ready for the increased workload.
In addition to adjusting your conditioning program, focus on ways you can incorporate more low-impact activities into your horse’s training. Rather than frequently working on the barrel pattern or over fences to develop strength and fitness, rely on long periods of walking or trotting, swimming, hill work or other activities that create less strain on joints.
Start With Hoof Health
Your horse’s hoof health and condition play an essential role in his joint health. Overgrown or unbalanced hooves will create additional joint strain, so establish a regular trimming schedule with a skilled farrier. If your horse has conformation issues, involving a farrier early on can help correct some issues. Even if those issues can’t be corrected, farrier work can help to minimize the strain that poor conformation puts on your horse’s joints over time.
Carefully Choose Footing
The surfaces that you ride and school your horse on can also contribute to joint health and comfort. Riding arenas with poor quality footing or not enough footing can be hard, increasing the concussive forces that affect your horse’s joints with every step. This effect is amplified by high-impact activities like jumping on these surfaces.
Always seek out the best riding surfaces available. This may mean rebuilding your riding ring or moving your horse to a boarding facility with better rings and footing.
Supplement For Joint Health
A high-quality joint supplement like Flexify-HA can help to maximize your horse’s health and comfort throughout his entire life. When choosing a supplement, look for one with ingredients like hyaluronic acid and MSM, which can contribute to joint health and function. Feeding a joint supplement throughout your horse’s entire life is one of the best ways you can support his health.
In addition to supplements, talk with your veterinarian about additional strategies that may be appropriate for your horse. Joint injections and therapies can be useful and are becoming more common and accessible.
Investing in your horse’s joint health early on in and throughout his life and career can pay off with a horse who is better able to compete and stay active comfortably as he ages. It’s an investment that’s well worth the cost.
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