Exercises for Horses with Arthritis

Exercise for horses with arthritis can ease pain, reduce inflammation and help to build joint stability and suppleness. So, incorporating just a few arthritis-friendly activities into our horse routine can make the world of difference for comfort and performance. But, what are these exercises for horses with arthritis and how do they help? 

Arthritis-Friendly Exercise For Horses

The most arthritis-friendly exercises for horses are in-hand exercises. Taking the away increased pressures and concussion on joints exerted in ridden exercise, in-hand manoeuvres are easily executed and provide relief from tight muscles formed through compensatory movement. 

In-hand exercises compromise of anything from stretches, to manoeuvres and tricks, all without a rider. Keeping the mind stimulated, it is also the perfect learning opportunity, for both horse and rider, and can help to perfect execution of movement which is tricky whilst in the saddle.

TOP TIP

Make sure to teach and perform in-hand movements in short bursts. This ensures your horse does not switch off to your commands and isn’t performing movements from habit rather than instruction. Performing the movement under instruction means you are able to control the degree of movement for full benefits and reduced risk of injury

Which In-Hand Exercises Are The Best For A Horse With Arthritis?

Dynamic stretches, known to most horse owners as ‘carrot stretches’, are one of the best types of in-hand exercises a horse owner can complete with their horse, especially those with arthritis.

Dynamic stretches encourage your horse to extend muscle and soft tissue, therefore aiding flexibility and reducing risk of strain injury. Performed in a controlled manner and speed, they are also great to strengthen muscles and stabilise joints of the back.

Researchers have found that performing a series of dynamic stretches increased the cross-sectional area and symmertry of the multifidus muscle. The increased cross section area of this weight carrying muscle in the back, represents a significant strength increase which is important for when carrying a rider. Improving strength over the top-line, these stretches are perfect to assist horses in carrying rider weight. Meanwhile, better symmetry of the multifidi should result in horses being less likely to compensate movement due to weakness. Movement compensation could result in further injury, uneven ‘wear and tear’ and increased pressure on arthritic joints.

Dynamic Stretches

Dynamic stretches or ‘carrot stretches’ should be performed until the horse reaches its maximal range of motion – this is to the point where the horse cannot stretch anymore without causing discomfort. 

Do not force stretching with your hands. Encourage the following exercises with a carrot, or any other treat;

Rounding

Encourage your horse to stretch their chin to their chest. This flexes the upper neck.

Encourage your horse to stretch their chin to their knees. Advance the stretch, encouraging their chin to extend toward their fetlocks. This stretch will flex the lower neck and lift the back.

Lateral Bending

Encourage your horse’s chin to their girth area on their right and left side. In this stretch you should notice an obvious bend in the neck of your horse.

Encourage your horse’s chin to their flank, on the left- and right-hand side. This stretch encourages a large bend, incorporating both the neck and the back.

Encourage your horse’s chin to their right and then their left hind fetlock. This will bend the neck, the back, as well as activate pelvic stabilizers and abdominal muscles.

Extensions

Encourage your horse to stretch his neck out as far as possible after the rounding and bending.

Although it is an undesirable position when riding, naturally the horse’s back goes through phases of flexion and extension when moving, therefore it is also important to condition these muscles.

PILOT EQUINE FREEDOM

To further assist arthritic joints throughout exercise, try a joint supplement such as Pilot Equine’s Freedom. With ingredients to combat musculoskeletal stress, Freedom effects see;

  • Boosted mobility and enhanced movement.
  • Assistance in joint tissue repair.
  • Increase comfort during exercise.