Seniority : Maintaining Your Older Horse’s Joints

January 30th, 2017 9:58 PM | No Comments
[photo credit: Kirstie Marie Photography]

[photo credit: Kirstie Marie Photography]

There are a lot of advantages to an older horse.  They typically have much more experience than their younger counterparts, and they can make the perfect novice or kids’ horse.  They tend to be calmer, and know their way “around the block.”  However, just like with older people, these show ring veterans need a little extra care in keeping them in top shape.  As is natural with the aging process, their joints aren’t as flexible as they once were and common issues like arthritis can creep up keeping your senior partner from performing at their best. 

No horse is created equal, and various factors like conformation, previous injuries, and maintenance care throughout their life contribute to their joints’ condition as they age.  Here are a few things you can do to help keep him going strong for years to come.

  • Keep them moving.  Just like people, horses of all ages stiffen up when left in the stall for long periods of time, and it definitely takes its toll on senior horses.  Adequate turnout time and light exercise help keep muscles loose and joints flexible.  Even on off days, your horse can benefit from pasture time or even hand-walking or light longing.  
    [photo credit: Kirstie Marie Photography]

    [photo credit: Kirstie Marie Photography]

  • Properly warm up and cool down.  Both crucial elements to your ride, the warm-ups and cool-downs not only help get your horse ready to work both physically and mentally, but they also allow you the chance to assess your partner for any abnormalities that could signal an underlying problem.  
  • Give added support for long hauls and stabling away from home.  It’s inevitable that show horses will log many hours on a trailer and in small stalls in show barns that are typically on concrete.  This can wreak havoc on older, arthritic joints.  Make sure trailers and stalls are adequately bedded to help absorb as much shock as possible and cushion the joints.  Therapeutic boots like Back On Track’s Padded Royal Hock Boots and Therapeutic Knee Boots add an extra layer of soothing comfort while hauling or stabling by reflecting body heat back into the joints with their gentle Welltex Technology fabric.  
    Back On Track Therapeutic Hock Boots

    Back On Track Therapeutic Hock Boots

  • Supplements.  There are many oral joint supplements on the market to help with the support of healthy joint fluid and tissues and keeping them that way.  Some of the most common are glucosamine, MSM, Hyaluronic Acid (HA), and chondroitin sulfate.  While there are numerous studies on the efficacy of supplements and which ones to use for which concerns, your best bet is to discuss the best course of action with your veterinarian.
  • Prescription medications.  If your senior horse is already suffering from joint issues like osteoarthritis, it would be a good idea to have an thorough exam done by your veterinarian to pinpoint the cause, and determine a treatment strategy.  Depending on the diagnosis, your vet may want to add a prescription medication to your horse’s regimen.  Products like LEGEND and Adequan reduce painful joint inflammation associated with osteoarthritis, and your vet can best prescribe and administer based on your horse horse’s needs.
  • Bodywork therapy.  Who doesn’t love a good massage or walking out of the chiropractor’s office after getting everything put back into place?  Your horse can benefit from the same therapies.  When a horse develops guarding patterns from stiffness or pain, it can throw their entire bodies out of whack and problems begin to escalate.  Regular bodywork therapies can help keep your horse in alignment, and passive and active stretching can help with flexibility as well.

Just because your horse may have a few years on him doesn’t mean he can’t still be a great partner.  With proper care, you can keep him performing at his best for many years to come.  It may take a little extra work, but great things always do.  

This post was sponsored by Back On Track USA, but all opinions are those of Pleasurehorse.com.

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