From "Horse and Rider " - Nov. 2015
Protect Precious Joints
Follow these strategies to help keep your horse's joints healthy and pain-free.
Your horse needs his joints in order to move. Joint problems, including the degenerative disease osteoarthritis, are a leading cause of lameness, especially as horses age. Here are key preventive strategies to help preserve your horse's joints over his lifetime.
Ample pasture turnout enables the kind of continuous, gentle exercise that helps lubricate joints and keep surrounding muscles toned. This is especially important if you don't otherwise exercise your horse every day. But even if you do, the more turnout you can provide, the better. (Caveat: Don't turn your horse out when he's full of explosive energy or he might injure himself; longe or hand-walk him first. And be sure the footing is safe—see below.)
Manager his weight.
Extra pounds promote inflammation and increase wear and tear on joints, especially as horses age. If you're not sure if your horse's weight is ideal, check what you see and feel against the Henneke body-condition score system (bit.ly/bodyconditionscore).
Mind his feet.
Regular, frequent care that keeps feet correctly balanced helps to avoid undue stress on your horse's joints.
Factor in footing.
Work your horse in good footing, with a solid, even, not-too-hard surface. This not only helps prevent missteps that could lead to injury; it also minimizes ongoing stress that may cause joint degeneration over time. Avoid riding or tuming your horse out on slippery ground. Be mindful out on the trail for unsafe terrain, as well. Where possible, though, do expose your horse to different types of safe footing—such as turf and natural ground and slopes in addition to arena sand and dirt; doing so can actually help keep muscles, tendons, and joints healthy.
IN THE BOX
What to Watch For
Signs of joint pain in your horse include the following:
* Slight heat or puffiness in any leg joint.
* A stiff, choppy gait when you first begin a ride; symptoms then ease as he warms up.
* Reluctance to perform maneuvers that once came easily for him, such as stops, turns, and collection. (He may raise his head and hollow his back.)
If signs persist, check with your vet.
Healthy joints are crucial for performance horses—and any horse. Take steps now to keep your horse's joints in good shape.
Warm up well.
Always provide at least 5 to 10 minutes of gradual warm-up—including lots of walking—before you put your horse into serious work. This enables joints to flex and tendons to stretch gently, without injury, as they prepare for more vigorous action. (See "Warm Up the Right Way" at HorseandRider.com.)
Condition and train with care.
Bring your unfit horse back into shape incrementally over time to avoid stressing his joints. During training sessions, introduce new work gradually to enable your horse's tendons and joints to adapt to unfamiliar maneuvers.
Be alert, proactive.
Stay on the lookout for subtle signs that your horse is experiencing joint discomfort (see box). Promptly treating a mild injury can help prevent ongoing damage. Also ask your veterinarian about the pros and cons of a joint-disease prevention program using injectables such as Adequan and Legend, and/or oral supplements. □
I GIVE MY HORSE MSM IN HER SPECIAL MASH I MAKE; AS WELL AS VITAMINS AND MINERALS. I TAKE ALL THESE MYSELF FOR MY HEALTH AND JOINTS. SOME PEOPLE MY POO-HOO THE IDEA, BUT IF THEY SEE ME AND WHAT I CAN STILL DO AT MY PRESENT AGE OF 73, THEY MAY THINK DIFFERENTLY. AND IF THEY CAN SEE HOW FIT AND FAST MY HORSE CAN STILL GALLOP AT AGE 15, THEY MAY ALSO THINK DIFFERENTLY - Keith Hunt