How To Protect Your Horse’s Joints

Boots and bandages can help prevent external forces causing joint injury
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Are you doing enough to protect your horse’s joints? Joint health is key to every horse performing and feeling at their best, from companion to Olympic athlete! But, with numerous, daily factors impacting equine joints, what should horse owners be doing to protect these delicate structures?

Incorporating the best management techniques is a step in the right direction to supporting equine joints. In this article we investigate best management practices and products to support equine joints.

Managing Nutrition

To protect your horse’s joints, firstly consider whether their diet supports good joint health.

Healthy joints are vital to prevent the occurrence and development of injury and ensure the maintenance of strength and stability of the joint through high-impact and lengthy training sessions.

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Nutritional builiding blocks to support joint health can be found in tried and tested joint supplements
Nutritional building blocks to support joint health can be found in tried and tested joint supplements.

To support joint health, include high-quality, key nutritional building blocks into your horse’s diet. Ensuring your horse receives key nutrient building blocks, such as Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulphate, will guarantee the healthy development of joint structures and enhanced repair and recovery after exercise.

Owners with older horses, or those regularly partaking in high-intensity exercise, also seek an anti-inflammatory supplement. Anti-inflammatories can aid pain associated with inflammation and increase the functionality of joints. MSM and Omega-3 are the most common anti-inflammatories to incorporate into horse diets.

Weight Management

Managing your horse’s weight will also help to protect your horse’s joints from injury and conditions associated with ‘wear and tear’, such as osteoarthritis.

When horses are overweight, this can lead to excessive l on joints which they are not designed to cope with. Not only can excess loading lead to wear and tear, but it can also lead to compensatory movements, which can cause reduced performance and, severely, more serious damage to musculoskeletal structures. Strategies such as providing low-sugar, low-calorie feeds, and increasing exercise can aid weight loss.

On the other hand, underweight horses will also suffer from poor joint health, often not receiving adequate nutrition to support the function and integrity of these structures.

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Hoof Condition

The condition of your horse’s hooves also plays a significant role in protecting equine joint health.

Uneven wear and tear of hooves can impact the loading of joints, with an uneven hoof wall and sole causing extra stress on leg structures. Uneven wear and tear on hooves often become a problem when farrier visits are not regular or hoof condition and strength are already weak.

Maintaining hoof condition is important for protecting joints from injury
Maintaining hoof condition is important for protecting joints from injury.

Hoof condition can be supported through regular farrier visits, as well as providing reputable nutritional supplements to aid the growth and strength of the hoof wall.

Tailor Exercise To Your Horse’s Fitness Level

Ensuring you are tailoring your horse’s exercise to suit their current fitness levels is essential to maintain life-long joint health and protect from injury.

When devising a training plan for your horse, try to regularly switch up exercises and be adaptable to load and intensity depending on how your horse is feeling on that day.

Switching up the exercises you complete will keep your horse engaged with you but also prevent repetitive trauma on joints – a predominant cause of joint injury. Repetitive trauma, sometimes referred to as repetitive strain injury (RSI), is caused by the overuse of muscle, nerves, tendons, and joints in a certain away, often leading to wear and tear and inflammation of the affected area.

Using your initiative to be able to give your horse a day off or a lower intensity session when they feel tired will also help to protect their joints. Fatigue is a significant cause of faults, injury, and falls in horse performance; therefore, knowing when your horse does not have the energy to complete their scheduled session could help avoid unnecessary injury. When your horse is tired, opt for a ‘rest day’ or a very light session to optimise recovery. Remember, every horse is different, so the same training plans won’t work in favour of every horse’s strengths and ability.

Incorporate Low Impact, Strengthening Exercises

Whether you’re prepping to conquer a cross-country course or dabble in dressage, making sure you are incorporating low-impact, strengthening exercises into your horse’s training is essential to ensure joint health.

Walking up hills and water treadmill exercise are perfect ways to prevent stress and strain on joints, meanwhile strengthening joint-supporting muscles at the same time!

Protect During Exercise

Protect your horse’s joints during exercise by using boots and bandages.

Brushing, tendon, medicine, and fetlock boots all provide great protection from outside trauma to the fetlock joint. Protecting your horse’s joints from external forces such as catching poles or other legs will help prevent injury, compensatory movement, and therefore wear and tear caused by pain.

Boots and bandages can help prevent external forces causing joint injury
Boots and bandages can help prevent external forces causing joint injury.

In addition, medicine boots and exercise bandages can provide support for joints. Cupping the fetlock, medicine boots and exercise bandages are designed to prevent overextension of tendons and ligaments down the back of the leg. Preventing overextension of these structures reduces excessive movement of the fetlock and the occurrence of overuse injuries. Plus, bandaging around the fetlock can cause excessive lateral movement of the joint.

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Abby Dickinson

Journalist and News Reporter, Everything Horse Reporting on equestrian news stories, Abby also produces a variety of engaging content for the magazine.

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