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Joint care for older horses is an art, balancing nutrition and management appropriately for optimal results. With masses of information out there for horse owners of veteran horses, what should we be doing to care for our horse’s joints as they become older?
Turning to the ingredient list, it may seem impossible to figure out what ingredients will actually benefit your older horse’s joint health. Looking out for these key ingredients, you’ll find your horse has everything they need to sustain joint health in later life!
Glucosamine is an essential ingredient to promote joint health. Although naturally occurring in the body in tissue and fluid surrounding joints, supplementation is sometimes needed to ensure your horse is getting adequate amounts for recovery from injury and exercise.
Glucosamine works as a building block for lots of different processes in the horse’s body. However, the substance is most effective at developing and maintaining cartilage between joints. The condition of cartilage can take a hit from everything, from the workload of your horse to their age. As an essential part of the horse’s musculoskeletal system, healthy cartilage assists in smooth movement and reducing concussive forces on joints. Therefore, it is important that the health and development of this cartilage is prioritised through horse’s working lives, as well as through their retirement.
Supplementing with glucosamine has shown positive effects on joint range of motion and stride length during exercise in veteran horses, suggesting alleviation of discomfort with supplementation. In addition, the duration of swing and stance phases during strides, suggests glucosamine could also improve performance, inducing a more ‘effortless’ stride.
MSM stands for Methylsulfonylmethane and is a natural compound found in very small quantities in cereals and grains within your horse’s diet.
With anti-inflammatory properties, MSM can support easing muscle and joint aches, whether that’s after a hard schooling session or due to age-related wear-and-tear.
MSM also has other health properties, such as playing a central role in connective tissue health and maintenance of healthy hooves, skin, and coats.
Calcium plays a major role in joint health, influencing bone and cartilage development and integrity.
Bone health suffers with age, often succumbing to pressures of work and increased nutrient demands taking its toll. With a major component of joint being the bones contain within the joint capsule, maintaining bone health is just as important as the surrounding structures which enable movement.
Poor bone health can result in degradation of articular surfaces. Therefore, during movement, instead of bone surface gliding smoothly over one another, increase friction, hardship, and even pain during movement is created. The damage articular surfaces can also damage cartilage and the synovial membranes that lie between bone and other joint structures. Therefore, calcium role in bone health is essential in joint care for older horses.
Supporting joint health should be a life-long quest for horse owners, ensuring the comfort, welfare, and longevity of horse’s working lives.
Incorporating a joint supplement into your horse’s diet may come as an extra expense in the short term, however in the long term, joint supplements can ease the worry of pain and injury caused by riding and field exercise.
For the older horse, showing signs of stiffness and pain is a common occurrence. With age also affecting the integrity of musculoskeletal structures and production of essential properties to maintain musculoskeletal health, incorporation of a joint supplement is highly recommended for increased mobility, comfort, and reduced pain, even if they are not showing signs of struggling!
Starting supplementation for joints as early in your horse’s career as possible will ensure your horse’s nutritional profile is enhanced to cope with demand and prevent onset of joint issues in later life.
Alongside supplementation, what other strategies can we take to combat joint health in our horse’s life?
With age comes the consequences of weight, whether this is an increase in weight due to decreased activity, or an decrease in weight with the effects of age impacting efficacy of internal systems.
When horses are overweight, this can lead to excessive loading on joints which they are not designed to cope with. Not only can excess loading lead to wear and tear, but it can also lead to compensatory movements which can cause reduced performance and ultimately more serious damage to musculoskeletal structures. Strategies such as providing low-sugar, low-calorie feeds, and increasing exercise can aid weight loss.
On the other hand, underweight horses will also suffer from poor joint health, often not receiving adequate nutrition to support the function and integrity of these structures.
With age it is important to keep muscle condition primed. This is because as our horses get older, muscle atrophy (loss of muscle mass) is extremely common, due to reduce workloads and increased nutritional demands.
Walking up hills and water treadmill exercise are perfect ways to prevent stress and strain on joints, meanwhile strengthening joint-supporting and stabilising muscles at the same time!
Pilot Equine’s Freedom joint supplement is the perfect supplement to add to the older horse’s diet. Containing the three key ingredients for great joint health through age, Glucosamine, Calcium and MSM, as well as supportive ingredients like Vitamin C to fight inflammation, and Hyaluronic Acid to maintain the smooth movement of joints, it tackles joint issues at the root. For peace of mind, Pilot Equine also promise;