JOINT & MOBILITY PROBLEMS IN HORSES

Specific work and exercises can help to strengthen a horse’s muscles and tendons, however a horse’s joints cannot be strengthened in the same manner. General wear and tear of joints can lead to lameness, especially when the cartilage that protects the bones of the joints becomes damaged or even destroyed. Although all horse joints are susceptible to damage, those most commonly affected include the upper knee joint, front fetlocks, hocks and coffin joints in the forefeet. Joint issues may result from injury, repetitive concussion, an abnormal growth pattern, poor/inappropriate shoeing, or inherited factors, such as poor conformation.

Mobility issues can also be due to muscle and ligament trauma and circulatory problems. Apart from obvious lameness and stiffness, sometimes the signs are more subtle, such as poor performance, jumping refusals, changes in behaviour. Many factors have a bearing on a horse’s mobility/agility but there are several ways that horse owners can have a positive influence. Firstly, excess weight puts more pressure on the weight-bearing joints, particularly the knees and hips. A horse should not be overweight and should have a suitable diet for the proper development and maintenance of cartilage. Exercise helps maintain a healthy weight and improve circulation. Disuse of a sore joint will cause the muscles around it to weaken, resulting in pain. Owners should be encouraged to exercise an affected horse gently and frequently, avoiding too hard or too soft ground. Horses, particularly working animals, require adequate rest for recovery from exertion and for healing. Improper, or inappropriate, shoeing causes many joint and muscle problems. The feeding of appropriate supplements can suppress the action of damaging free radicals and decrease stiffness.

Pro-Equine’s supplement Activgait is carefully formulated to support equine joint mobility and cartilage health and aid joint mobility and elasticity, in horses young and old. As with all Pro-Equine products, Activgait contains no banned substances so can be used while competing and is fast-acting.

Pro-Equine chooses to use the natural and powerful yucca in Activgait. The properties of yucca have long been exploited by the North American Indians. The saponins in yucca encourage a 'friendly' intestinal flora so toxins that can cause joint issues are kept away and absorbed into the bloodstream. Pro-Equine combines ginger and celery seed with yucca in Activgait. Ginger works with the circulation and helps speedy delivery of the key ingredients. Celery seed contains several useful substances, including volatile oils, flavonoids, antioxidants and linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid. Celery seed helps elimination of water, speeding up the clearance of accumulated toxins from the joints.

"I have a 14-year old mare and I decided I would start to feed a mobility supplement. I put her on Activgait and in less than a month I started to notice a difference. She became quite a bit more athletic in her movement and was certainly feeling good within herself. Usually I would look to try and boost her energy at competitions but that is not necessary when she is on the Activgait supplement, and to top it off her marks for her extended trot work have increased by at least one mark since putting her on Activgait! I am so delighted with this product - it certainly does what it says on the tin!!!" Lauren C

Glucosamine and chondroitin are naturally occurring chemicals in the horse which assist in the maintenance of the joint tissue. As the horse gets older the cartilage between the bones begins to thin which can result in issues. Methyl sulphonyl methane, MSM, is a naturally occurring sulphur compound which helps soothe knocks and joint mobility. Supplements containing glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM are well-established for all, but particularly older horses. Most products are suited to long-term use however there are reports of mild side effects, which include upset stomach, diarrhoea, constipation, indigestion and stomach pain. Once started these products need to be fed continually to maintain their effectiveness and the concentration may have to be increased to maintain positive results.

Devil’s Claw (proper name Harpagophytum procumbens) has been widely used for horses' muscles and joints. Side effects are uncommon but Devil's Claw is not recommended for a horse that has, or may have, stomach or intestinal ulcers. Since January 2016, the FEI has listed Devil’s Claw as a banned substance in the UK, bringing the UK in line with other EU countries, such as Germany and France. The British Racehorse Authority (BHA) also classifies Devil’s Claw (which is easily traced via blood and urine samples) as a banned substance.