We all get older. Not only us but our animals do as well. For older horses – particularly those who have worked hard in their lives – arthritis is a common problem. Arthritis in horses can range from stiffness in the mornings to chronic lameness. As the horse is a heavy animal in comparison to the limbs that carry them, it is a very common problem in horses not only in their late teens, but also in those who have competed regularly from an early age.
It goes without saying that we all want our horses to be active and happy and not in any type of discomfort. Finding a way of keeping our equine friends free of joint discomfort is one of the best ways of prolonging their active life and giving them a contented retirement.
Symptoms of arthritis in horses
Arthritis is not always easy to spot. Horses are unable to tell us that they are aching, or just simply feeling stiff. One of the most common indications is of course unexplained lameness. If there is heat in and around the joint then it may initially be thought of as a sprain, but may in fact be the onset of arthritis. Many horses that have had active lives will have clicking joints and again this can be a forerunner of the problem. Windgalls and other bursal enlargements in the joints are a form of arthritis also. Any kind of heat or swelling in a joint that lingers and leads to even minor discomfort should be viewed as a potential seat of the condition.
There are two types of arthritis affecting horses – closed and open. Open arthritis is caused by trauma such as a kick, wound, or injury resulting in a seat of arthritis. Closed arthritis begins in the joint itself due to wear and tear or poor confirmation and is usually accompanied by some form of fluid and swelling.
Depending on the severity of the equine arthritis there may be no need to rely on painkillers such as phenylbutazone more commonly known as “bute”. There are herbal remedies that provide inflammation relief such as Devils Claw and this can be found in many of the supplements that can be bought to help the ailing horse. T.E.N (Targeted Equine Nutrition) specialise in creating supplements that target certain problems and their joint support range has a selection of products to help horse mobility. For maintenance and keeping the working horses’ joints healthy, the Healthy Join supplement contains glucosamine to maintain healthy cartilage and MSM which helps promote collagen production. Collagen is responsible for the elasticity of the joints surrounding tissue and ligaments. For horses that are already living with arthritis or joint damage, a stronger remedy is needed. The Challenged Joints range is designed for horses still living an active life and feeling its effects. With added oils and hyaluronic acid it is designed to provide relief and increase flexion and can then be replaced with Healthy Joint once an improvement has been seen.
This brief look at equine arthritis was written by Jenifer Cornwall, a freelance equine writer who has trained racehorses and show jumpers and is experienced in dealing with the injuries and ailments of horses under stress.