15 Sep 2022
a young horse in a field

Understanding joint health in young horses

a young horse in a field


Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common condition that affects horses. It is characterized by the painful loss of articular cartilage and bone, as well as changes in the soft tissue that are associated with the joint. There is no cure for osteoarthritis (OA), which continues to limit horses’ performance and negatively impact their quality of life despite extensive research efforts in this area. Unfortunately for horse owners and riders, OA can lead to premature retirement and financial losses disease’s pain becomes an issue for the horse’s quality of life.

Osteoarthritis processes

In simple terms, the inflammatory cascade and OA can be triggered by two processes: normal forces applied to musculoskeletal tissues that are abnormal and abnormal forces applied to musculoskeletal tissues that are normal.

This first group includes horses whose defects as foals, such as poor conformation, cause joint inflammation when they bear weight. These include flexural deformities such as abnormal joint angles from the front to the back of the limb which can be present in foals at birth. A carpal or fetlock flexure, in which the foal cannot straighten its knee or ankle, is one example. Another example of a flexural deformity is a club foot. These joints and deformed hooves won’t be subjected to the usual forces when they bear weight.

Many conformation defects can result in inflammation in the joint which initiates the sequence of events that can lead to osteoarthritis (OA). Early correction of these anatomical flaws can enable a foal to bear normal weight on normal joints, thereby preventing OA. However, It is vitally important to recognize when a horse has conformation that predisposes to abnormal joint function. It would be ideal to decide which level of performance is least likely to predispose her to joint stresses that could lead to OA. The horse’s comfort and outward signs of joint inflammation can be monitored, allowing for any necessary adjustments to its training regimen.

Even in horses with normal joints, excessive forces or other affronts can cause joint inflammation.

For bone and cartilage adaptation to occur, an elevated level of training is required. Joints can become accustomed to the work a horse is expected to do through this remodeling and strengthening. Overtraining can happen to a performance horse in some cases, and when a horse is asked to do more than his musculoskeletal system is ready for, joint inflammation can happen. The affected joint may sustain permanent damage if sufficient harm has been sustained.

The owner, trainer, and veterinarian should collaborate to modify the horse’s training regimen in order to prevent osteoarthritis (OA) and extend the animal’s lifespan. Consider, for instance, a young horse with a large frame who lacks the maturity and conditioning necessary to properly support himself in work. Strengthening the muscles that support the stifle, sacroiliac, back, and neck joints is the first step. This can be accomplished by the owner through exercises like ground poles and trotting hills.

Specialists and veterinarians have amassed a wide exhibit of OA treatments that fit into the right now acknowledged worldview of “multimodal treatment.” This includes both conventional anti-inflammatories like phenylbutazone or Bute and cutting-edge techniques like stem cell therapy and platelet-rich plasma.

Treating joints with care with help from Elite Equine

But what if we could save ourselves the time and money spent on diagnosis and treatment as well as the disappointment of trying unsuccessfully to alleviate our horses’ OA pain? If we could protect each joint from daily wear and tear from the beginning, we could significantly slow the progression of OA.

Supplementing with an all-natural rosehip supplement can provide your horse with immune system support, joint protection and all-round health maintenance. Elite Equine provides a competition safe, powdered rosehip supplement proven to improve joint mobility and reduce the risk of early OA. Shop today at www.eliteequine.com