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  • March 15, 2022 4 min read

    Healthy joints are paramount not only for your horse’s performance, but also for their wellbeing and quality of life. During a horse's ridden career, whether that may be high performance, pony club or trail riding, stress and general wear and tear will be placed on the horse’s joint structures. This can lead to osteoarthritis, and chronic lameness.

    Luckily, there are things that we can do to prevent joint discomfort and lameness. First and foremost, we need to feed a diet that promotes the health of joints and cartilage. So, what do we do? Well, first we feed a balanced diet in accordance with the NRC Nutrient Requirements of Horses 2007. This will ensure that your horse is receiving adequate calories, vitamins and minerals to achieve optimum health. It will also reduce the likelihood that your horse will be overfed, resulting in obesity, which in time will increase the stress on your horses joints, leading to unsoundness in some horses. 

    Joint supplements can also be fed to horses to maintain healthy joints. The joint supplements that are typically fed, aim to help in building new cartilage and synovial fluid, which may help to delay or heal damage or lesions within the joint.

    The joint supplements which are typically fed include;

    • Glucosamine: Helps to build new cartilage and prevents cartilage degraditon, pain and inflammation
    • Chondroitin Sulphate: May prevent degradation and/or enhance production of glycosaminoglycan, which is used in the growth of new cartilage and synovial fluid
    • Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM): an organic sulphur compound which may have cartilage protecting effects. MSM provides a bioavailable source of sulphur, which is one substance found within the joint. 
    • Hyaluronic Acid (HA): found in cartilage, helping to protect against cartilage and synovial fluid breakdown. Also acts as an anti-inflammatory agent and aids in absorbing shock.
    • Green-lipped muscle: This little known supplement has found a place on our list, as it may contain glycosaminoglycan compounds and Omega-3 fatty acids. Therefore it may also aid in the protection of cartilage.

    Whilst correct nutrition and supplementation may be the cornerstone of maintaining healthy joints, there are other steps that can be taken to prevent joint injuries. These include:

    1. Steady Training Progression - increase the length and intensity of your training programme in accordance with your horse’s strength and fitness level. If training is increased above the level that the horse can physically attain, then injuries are more likely to occur. Also, try not to be repetitive in training - trying different exercises, and riding on different terrains will not only keep your horse happy and focussed mentally, but will also alleviate repetitve joint strain issues.
    2. Time off from Training - if your horse has had some time off from training, either from sickness, injury or just a holiday, ensure that they are brought back into work slowly. Horses, like humans, will need to be reconditioned back to their previous workload. If they are brought back into work too quickly, then injuries may result
    3. Hooves are in optimum condition - we have all heard the expression of no hoof, no horse. Ensure that your horse’s hooves are trimmed or shod regularly. It is important to note that the shape of the horse’s hooves can impact their conformation, placing undue stress on their joints and impacting the way they move and use their body. Correctional shoeing may be required in some horses to help with and fix conformational faults
    4. Limit work on hard surfaces - if you must work on hard surfaces, such as roads, then limit this to only a walk. If this isn’t possible, it may be worth considering shock absorbing boots to reduce the shock transmission through the horse’s body
    5. Check your horse’s joint daily - look out for heat, swelling, lameness, or a difference in the way the horse moves. If any of these factors are present, it is advised to consult with your vet for further diagnosis and treatment.

    Whilst good nutrition is vital for joint health and function, there are also many other factors that can have a lasting influence in the protection of joints. Ensuring that you exercise your horse appropriately, take good care of the hooves and are vigilant to changes in the way your horse moves, will help in detecting any joint issues early. However, the big takeaway is - don’t underestimate the power of nutrition. Studies have suggested that joint supplements do have an effect on joint health. Joint supplementation can be fed individually, or you can buy an overall joint health supplement, which generally combines glucosomine, chondroitin sulphate and MSM. If you are looking for an all-in-one joint supplement that combines the above, we have a variety for you to try in store and online. We have provided a link to some of our favourites below:

    Kelato Nutriflex Joint Supplement

    Fibregenix Liquid Joint and Bone

    Nature Vet Joint Guard for Horses

    Caliciplex Bone and Joint 

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