Winter can be hard on horse owners, but it can be even harder on horses affected by osteoarthritis (OA). In horses with osteoarthritis, the bone, soft tissue and cartilage in the affected joint begins to deteriorate. These changes can be painful, as well as cause the joint to become deformed and for the horse to lose motion in that joint.
Deep snow to wade through, freezing rain that can drop body temperature and plunging temps can wreak havoc with equines. Just like in humans, changes in the barometric pressure can worsen equine joint pain.
The American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) recommends that horse owners and caretakers be on the lookout for these signs in their equine charges, which may be indicative of OA:
- Decreased mobility
- Stiffness or decreased joint movement
While there is no cure for osteoarthritis, it is possible to control the disease's progression, and alleviate pain and inflammation, helping the horse maintain as much mobility as possible.
To help horses with OA, owners should keep riding their horses throughout the winter, which keeps the joints moving. However, warm up time should be extended and care should be taken not to work the horse past his comfort level. Stretching should also be incorporated.
Owners should consider the following management tips in colder weather for horses with OA:
- Turn horses out as often as possible
- Be cautious when riding in deep, heavy or wet snow, which can cause tendon injuries
- If the horse is getting sweaty after being ridden, clip him to help him cool down faster
- Blanket horses that are clipped or that don't have a thick coat
- Provide ample bedding for horses that are stalled for both warmth and cushioning to elbows, hocks and other sensitive areas
If the horse is experiencing pain from OA that is not being controlled, contact a veterinarian to discuss pain management options.
Read more at AQHA Daily.
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