Looking at arthritis
Arthritis is the inflammation of a joint which causes stiffness and pain due to the breakdown of cartilage in the joint. As the cartilage breaks down, the synovial fluid which lubricates the joint loses it’s ability to facilitate smooth movement in the joint. As a result, this creates pain and stiffness. It is extremely common in horses and is an unwelcome diagnosis for any horse-owner. However, it does not mean that the horse cannot continue to have a job.
So, what are the signs you are looking for which may suggest your equine friend might be arthritic?
- Reluctance to move forwards
- Difficulty in turning tightly
- A down attitude
- Unusual refusal of jumps
Of course, this is not a diagnosis and arthritis is not the only cause to these symptoms. These are just potential symptoms and if you have any queries over your horse, you should always consult your veterinarian.
Managing the arthritic horse
1. Glucosamine with MSM (affiliate link)
Glucosamine is a powder which you can feed to your horse. It helps to provide support for joints and muscles and can help with inflammation for the arthritic horse. Some studies have suggested that it can aid in slowing the breakdown of cartilage and thus slow down the process of arthritis.
2. Regular exercise
Your first thought when you find out your horse is arthritic may be a disheartening one: “my horse can’t work anymore“. This is false. The opposite is quite true; regular exercise will help to keep the joints mobile and will benefit your horse more in the long haul. However, the workload needs to be managed carefully so as to be at a suitable level for your horses’ requirements.
3. Watch that weight
Watching your horses’ weight can help avoid a number of problems. However, it is very useful for the arthritic horse to be at a sensible weight according to height as with less weight, there is less pressure placed on the joints.
4. Listen to your horse
This is so important. There will be days where you decide you would like to ride and your horse is stiff or sore. You should always listen to how your horse is feeling. If he is looking a little stiff, maybe skip the schooling session and go for a small hack. Play it by how your horse is on the day. Unfortunately, this means you have to become more flexible and push your own desires to the side for your horses’ well being.
5. Regular turnout
My equine physiotherapist suggested turning my horse out as often as possible. This, like regular exercise, helps to keep joints mobile and active.
If your equine friend is arthritic then I have found that the above steps are really helpful in keeping an arthritic horse happy and healthy. Don’t be too disheartened, it’s not the end of the road (I admit, I did believe this too and I sometimes still fall into this mind frame!). It does mean, however, that some important changes to your routine may need to be put in place.
If you are unsure about what to do, or if your horse is suffering from arthritis, consult your veterinarian for advice and work in partnership with them.
Please note, the above information is based on my own experience and interactions and is not a diagnosis, nor does it claim to be 100% accurate.