Weekend Wellness: How to Avoid Joint Pain in Horses

Here are some easy steps that can help to keep your horse’s joints comfortable and in working order.

Photo courtesy of Tab Pigg

Written by Tab Pigg, Certified Journeyman Farrier, Vettec, Inc.

Summer is nearing its end, and horse owners have been taking advantage of the weather with more weekend trail rides. With horses getting many hours of physical activity on the weekends, the sudden stillness during the week can take a toll on their bodies and result in joint pain.

Similar to how humans react to staying still too long, joint pain and stiffness are common among horses that do not get enough movement. Motion is lotion, meaning more movement helps smooth out stiff joints and keep them lubricated. For horses to get up and move quicker on the weekends, they need to be taken out regularly during the week.

Signs A Horse Needs More Movement

There are a couple signs horse owners will start to notice if their horse is experiencing joint pain:

  • Longer Warm-Up Time
    When horses get extra exercise for a couple of days, and then sit in their stall for the majority of the week, by that next ride, their bodies aren’t quick to move around. More time spent standing around means it will take more minutes getting the muscles ready to move at a normal pace.
  • Choppy Rides
    If a horse has joint pain and tender muscles due to several days of inactivity, it cannot step its normal stride when first standing up to exercise. If a horse’s strides feel choppy and shorter than usual, it could be because they aren’t getting out of the stall frequently enough.
    When this happens, the best way to relieve the joint pain is plain and simple—stretch your horse and commit to taking them out more.

How to Loosen Up Joints

Keeping a horse in a 10-by-10 stall for all hours of the day can result in strain on the horse’s muscles. Similar to humans working an office job Monday through Friday, if a person hasn’t stretched or moved around at all, by Friday, they’re not moving so well.

During the slower days, take horses out for a walk or release them out of the stable to stretch so their bodies stay limber and healthy. This will save time on the weekends instead of spending two hours warming up a horse’s stiff joints for a trail ride. You’ll hop right on for a smooth, comfortable outing!

For older horses, keeping joints and muscles in motion is especially important. The muscles of older horses stiffen quicker and more often, so taking them out for exercise frequently can help avoid a choppy ride or worse, pain in the horse.

If horses get out more during the week, riders will ultimately save time warming up and will also contribute to the overall well-being of their animal.

Pour-In Pads Help

Deep ground surfaces, like plowed dirt, can put stress on a horse’s upper body, shoulders and hips, and can be especially painful if the horse is already experiencing joint pain from lack of exercise.

Sometimes, extra support can help level out the surface a horse stands on and ease any pain. Pour-in pads are an adhesive material that bond to horse soles to create a firm protectant over the sole. To apply, farriers squeeze the adhesive into the foot, where it dries after about a minute.

Pour-in pads build a sort of floatation device on top of the terrain, so the horse doesn’t have to strain itself to move through the deep, sinking ground. The pads can also help prevent joint aches in the first place, because the material is designed to absorb concussion and shock. Try Equi-Pak to help horses move easier and quicker through deep terrain.

To keep horses comfortable and healthy, give them frequent weekly exercise. If horses have the chance to move and stretch throughout the week, they will be ready for weekend trail rides all summer long.

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