Horse joint health is integral to the overall well-being, health, and happiness of your horse. It is critical that you put your horse’s joint health at the top of your horse care and management priority list.
For most horse owners, joint health is synonymous with arthritis or osteoarthritis. Horse arthritis is definitely a concern in horses of any age, activity level, and health history. However, we also want you to think beyond arthritis and understand the keys to naturally supporting your horse’s joint health.
The sooner you start thinking about and proactively caring for your horse’s joints, the healthier and more active your horse. In this article we explain the facts around horse joints and highlight three ways you can naturally support your horse’s joint health.
Understanding Horse Joints
Just like in us humans, a horse joint occurs when two or more bones connect, absorbing shock and providing movement or motion. Think of your knees, shoulders, wrists, elbows, skull, or ankles or in your horse the knees, hip, hock, coffin, shoulder, or skull. Multiple bones, ligaments, and tendons working together keeping you and your horse moving freely and pain-free.
There are three types of horse joints:
- Synovial Joints
Synovial joints are the most common joint type in your horse. The primary function of these joints is to support movement. Synovial joints have different shapes and connections including the hinge joint in the shoulder and the ball and socket joint in the hip. The type of synovial joint determines how your horse does and doesn’t move. Joints both allow and limit movement.
- Fibrous Joints
Fibrous joints do not support movements. These joints basically hold other bones together with fibrous tissue that hardens into bone. Fibrous joints are fixed joints and include the bones in your horse’s skull.
- Cartilaginous Joints
Cartilaginous joints allow small ranges of movement. These joints are held together or connected with fibrocartilage and hyaline cartilage. Examples of cartilaginous horse joints includes the vertebrae in your horse’s spine, the pelvis, and the growth plates which extend your horse’s bone length during growth.
Healthy tendons and ligaments are crucial in keeping your horse’s joints moving freely and comfortably. Tendons and ligaments are two types of connective tissue that support and enable joint movement.
- Tendons connect muscles to bones. They have a slight degree of flexibility or elasticity. Tendons give horse joints the room and freedom to move.
- Ligaments connect bones to bones. This connective tissue is rigid, with limited flexibility. Think of ligaments as the protectors of horse joints, working to prevent hyper extension, sprains, and dislocations.
Along with bones, tendons, and ligaments, horse joints also depend on cartilage and joint fluid to stay flexible and maintain a consistent range of motion. Cartilage acts as cushioning between the bones in joints, preventing bone-on-bone impact, rubbing, and ultimately pain. Joint fluid, such as synovial fluid, adds lubrication to the joint to keep it moving easily.
3 Ways to Naturally Support Your Horse’s Joint Health
These three ways to naturally support your horse’s joint health emphasize that joint health care doesn’t need to be complicated or time-consuming. Straight forward horse care management best practices from the outset can help your horse have healthy, strong, agile, and happy joints.
Make sure you integrate these three natural horse joint health care strategies into your horse’s life:
Nutrition is integral to healthy and strong horse joints. So important, that nutrition and joint health starts when your horse is fetus. This excerpt from Promoting Lifelong Equine Joint Health, emphasizes the importance of nutrition:
From conception to foaling, broodmare nutrition affects the fetus’ joint health and might impact his chances of having developmental orthopedic disease (DOD, musculoskeletal problems) as a youngster. A mare’s feed intake and mineral ratios (zinc, copper, calcium, phosphorus) contribute to proper cartilage maturation, particularly in the last trimester. Because mare’s milk is a poor source of trace minerals, a foal depends on his liver mineral stores, such as copper, for several months after birth. Copper helps mineralize (strengthen) the cartilage matrix and aids bone development. While a foal’s liver store of copper does not reduce DOD incidence, it does help improve and repair lesions that arise.
Remember, you are not an expert in horse nutrition, and we do not intuitively understand what our horses need to feel their best. Talk to your veterinarian about how best to feed your horse, your veterinarian should take into consideration your horse’s age, history, activity level, and health issues.
Regular and safe exercise helps your horse build strong muscles, ligaments, tendons, and supports their overall joint health. A fit horse is able to jump and move freely without any hesitation or limits.
However, your horse’s exercise routine must take into consideration your horse’s age, previous and current injuries, and history of competing and working. It’s important that your horse is not walking on hard surfaces or that young joints are not placed under excessive impact when your horse is still growing.
Work with your horse trainer and veterinarian to understand your horse’s unique exercise needs. Remember every horse is different, so don’t automatically follow an exercise routine you find on the Internet.
- Joint Supplements
The best diet, the most optimum exercise, and horse care management routine cannot give you horse everything they need. Horse joint supplements are the best way to fill the gaps that nutrition, exercise, genetics, and horse care management best practices cannot fill.
Horse joint supplements naturally support your horse’s defense against the normal joint wear-and-tear and degeneration that happens with activity, age, and breed. The best way to give your horse an advantage with their joint health, is start them on an NASC-approved joint supplement from a young age. Doing so can slow the impacts of arthritis and feed your horse’s joints much needed nutrition that they can’t get through forage.
Remember that joint supplements are not magic – you need to make sure you’re feeding your horse properly, that your horse is getting the right type of exercise for their needs, and that you’re paying attention to all aspects of your horse’s care and management (coat, hooves, skin, happiness, turnout, etc.).
How to Learn More About Horse Joint Health
At Grand Meadows, we want you to know what we know about horse joint health and care. Please do take advantage of the resources on our website to learn more about horse joint health.
And, of course if you have questions about your horse, joint supplements, or horse care in general, feel free to contact us. Remember, we’re not veterinarians and cannot give out medical advice – but if we can help –we will.