Types of exercise that benefit arthritic horses
Exercising arthritic horses may at first seem counter intuitive, but there are many benefits to maintaining an active lifestyle.
The key is to develop an exercise program that promotes regular movement, while factoring in your horse’s limitations so as not to cause undue stress on stiff and aching joints.
Whether your horse is in the early stages of degenerative osteoarthritis or entering their senior years, there are a range of exercises for arthritic horses that will benefit their health.
Exercise for Arthritic Horses
Before starting your arthritic horse on any new exercise regime, it’s best to speak with your veterinarian. They’ll be able to help you formulate an exercise program that incorporates the correct balance of in-hand and under saddle exercises.
Your veterinarian will also be able to guide you on the progression of your horse’s condition and develop a multi-modal treatment plan that includes nutrition, medications, supplements, and hoof care to give your horse the support they need.
Benefits of Exercise for Arthritic Horses
Regular low-impact exercise helps arthritic horses to maintain flexibility and physical fitness, in turn promoting longevity. Gentle workouts structured to your horse also:
- Burn calories to keep your horse at a health body weight
- Stimulate circulation through their limbs and joints, supporting healing
- Assist in generating healthy bone and cartilage cells through concussion
- Increase the strength and stability of the muscles surrounding their joints
Types of Exercise for Arthritic Horses
Give your horse longer warm up and cool down periods during each workout. In-hand walking or gently lunging them before you mount up is also recommended to allow their muscles and joints to slowly warm up.
After your horse is warmed up, they may also benefit from some leg stretching exercises. Be careful not to over-extend their limbs and make sure the soft tissues are adequately warmed up before starting stretches.
If your horse is coming back into work after an extended period, such as post-surgery, keep your workouts short initially and increase the length and intensity over time. In-hand walking, or lunging may be ideal for their first few sessions.
Footing and Terrain
Soft footing and flat terrain are recommended when working an arthritic horse. Avoid excessive hill work and hard jarring surfaces, such as roads, to minimize strain on your horse’s joints and soft tissues.
Small circles, sharp turns, and abrupt stops and starts cause stress on your horse’s joints. Instead, opt for exercises that utilize larger circles and gentle transitions to work their body and mind.