Our horse’s joints, feet and backs take a lot of impact and as a result can suffer from day to day wear and tear. It is vital that as horse owners we help to keep their joints comfortable and running smoothly to prolong their ridden career and to help prevent the risk of injury or pain.
Whether your horse competes in high level dressage or showjumping or if he is a leisure horse, it is essential that you maintain maximum joint comfort no matter what age or breed he is. Suitable joint care can reduce the risk of injury, pain and also improve all round performance.
How Can You Spot Joint Pain?
Symptoms can include heat or swelling, lameness and obvious pain upon movement or flexion of a joint. If you suspect joint pain always call your vet for a diagnosis and advice on the best choice of treatment but there are preventative steps you can take to keep joint issues at bay.
How Are Joint Issues Created?
Horse’s joints are designed to absorb shock and bear the weight of the body whilst also helping them to move easily and without any friction. The joints are split into three main categories:
- Cartilaginous joints: such as the spinal column
- Fibrous joints: these are fixed similar to the skull
- Synovial joints: these are the moveable joints which include the fetlock, stifle or hock
The synovial joints are the highest risk area for injuries and problems due to them being the most mobile and therefore very susceptible to injury. It is the job of the lubricated cartilage to absorb the impact placed on the joint as the horse moves – if this is affected, the friction can cause the joints to wear as a result.
A long term joint problem will occur when the horse’s body has been unable to repair itself quick enough. It is therefore wise to be aware of what causes joint damage and how you can minimise the risk.
What Preventative Action Can You Take?
Fundamental to exercise no matter what discipline you are participating in is the warming up and cooling down period. Doing this correctly will keep your horse’s joints supple and therefore minimise the possibility of any damage or friction occurring. If you are competing, be aware of the ground condition as hard ground or rough terrain which your horse or pony is not used to it will place more stress and strain on his joints than normal. Leave plenty of time for your horse to rest after strenuous exercise or competition as this will help him to recover properly and reduce any chance of long term problems.
When you are schooling make sure you build up a very gradual resistance on different surfaces as this will help to protect from injury, keep joints supple and over time improve his general joint condition.
If you are currently in the process of buying a new horse check your potential purchase for his conformation as this is key to reducing the danger of future joint problems. The better a horse’s conformation, the more balanced they will be and therefore less impact will be placed on the joints. If a horse displays bad conformation their joint problems will be worsened as more pressure will be placed on compensating joints which will eventually cause more wear and tear.
How Your Horse’s Diet Can Aid Joint Mobility
There are many supplements on the market which can have a positive effect on joint mobility including Horse Joint Right Supreme designed and produced by Scientific Nutritional Products. This supplement incorporates levels of Horse Glucosamine, Chondroitin and MSM, all of which help to build equine cartilage, ligaments, tendons and develop synovial fluid found in the horse or pony’s joints. Horse Joint Right Supreme contains Hyaluronic Acid which naturally occurs within the body and also helps to cushion and lubricate the joints.
This product also contains a brand new innovative ingredient called Green Lipped Mussel (also known as Perna Canaliculus). It is well known for its soothing qualities on joints and works by encouraging synovial fluid production to lubricate and cushion the joints which is essential for the maintenance of joint cartilage and connective tissue therefore optimising joint function.
There is no real way to completely prevent general wear and tear on your horse’s joints but there are certainly ways to reduce it. A horse’s conformation, age and workload all play a part in joint condition and while you cannot change some factors there are other aspects that can be improved. For example, correct care will help to keep your horse’s joints in the best possible condition which will prolong his working life.