Your horse’s joints go under a lot of strain, particularly during training and competing for performance horses, and it’s an unfortunate inevitability that with age the joints will deteriorate to some degree. Whether this happens due to strenuous competing earlier in life, or simply due to age later down the line, it’s important to know how to prevent further conditions as well as treat existing ones.
From diet and exercise through to veterinary consultation, there are a variety of ways to ensure that your horses joints stay as healthy as possible, and any issues are remedied or at least treated – all of which depend on the breed and age of your horse, as well as whether it’s a competing or non-competitive animal. This post runs through causes, treatments and potential solutions for any joint issues you may notice in riding or general day-to-day care.
1. Always Have Veterinary Consultation
This should always be the first step – while you know your horse better than anyone, a vet will be able to advise any necessary dietary changes or requirements and appropriate exercise regimes, as well as accurately assess the extent of the condition, what the damage is to which muscles and joints and what the causes may be. They’ll also be able to prescribe any pain relieving medication which might be required, and ensure any management of the condition is appropriate and conducive to recovery.
2. Exercise – With Guidance
While a lot of joint conditions are likely to be inevitable, exercise, particularly in competing horses, can be a major cause in a lot of cases. Consider galloping, jumping and landing – there will be times in all of these instances where your horse’s entire weight is borne by a single limb, consisting of just 4 or 5 joints.
That said, it’s important to not rule out exercise altogether – however tempting it might be! Conditions can be worsened due to joint stiffness and lack of use can make the muscles in the joint even weaker so, while it’s vitally important to avoid heavy exercising that your horse is uncomfortable with, implementing a sensible exercise regime can help to alleviate a lot of the issues and make your horse less protective of their damaged joint(s). Turnout, walking or trotting are all viable solutions but, as we mentioned before, always consult your vet – they may recommend stall rest.
3. Consider Specialist Joint-Focussed Supplements
Supplements are a great way to back up all the good practice mentioned in this post, as well as any other professional tips you might pick up along the way. Specialist joint supplements can be used either as a preventative measure (ie. before joint problems crop up, but in a competing horse which will likely develop them) or as a treatment (older horses with conditions like arthritis or working horses showing signs of problems). Prevention is always better than a cure, so implementing joint supplements before problems arise is a sensible tactic, particularly amongst competing horses.
Numerous vets (such as this team of vets interviewed for an equine blog), animal charities (such as the Blue Cross in the UK) and equine medical professionals (such as Jeremy Hubert) recommend initially trailing the use of joint supplements, and monitoring the results. Used in line with a typical, healthy and varied diet, they can help enormously to reduce inflammation and pain, as well as stimulate the repair of joints and muscles. The market is currently flooded with various products, making it difficult to know what to choose – sticking to specialist retailers such as Science Supplements will ensure you get a product that has been specially designed, with all the components needed to achieve healthier, more usable joints.
4. Monitor Diet & Ability To Digest
Equally important as everything we’ve mentioned so far, making sure your horse is still getting a fully nutritious diet is essential for ensuring strong muscle recovery and maintaining your horse’s overall strength. A healthy mix of quality mould-free forage and cubes, grains or other hard feeds is essential for healthy digestion which, in turn, allows for effective use of nutrients within the food you provide. Balance and variety is important but water, carbohydrates and protein are the three key nutritional requirements for energy and strength; conditions and a diet lacking in access to these may lead to earlier onset of joint problems, and isn’t conducive to recovery from existing conditions.
Always monitor your horse’s eating habits – if they change suddenly, there’s a chance they are unwell. Additionally, ensure they’re able to effectively masticate and digest the feed they’re given – anything to the contrary may be the result of a poor, unhealthy or ineffective diet.
This was a guest post written by Tom McShane on behalf of Science Supplements, one of the UK’s leading suppliers of specialist equine supplements. Visit their website for a full range of products.
For Guest Blogger profile visit: Guest Blogger – Science Supplements
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