Pain in horses due to ‘wear and tear’

Joint wear and tear is a common problem in horses and can lead to pain and reduced mobility. In this article, you will learn all about joint wear and tear in horses and how to recognize it.

Some injuries prevent a horse from continuing to live because the horse cannot recover or has to continue with much pain. Fortunately there are also a lot of injuries of which a horse fully recovers. Yet there is a large group of horses that falls between these two categories. Horses that are too worn out, too old or have an injury that does not allow them to work but are still too vital to say goodbye to. These horses can suffer from chronic pain due to conditions such as hoof pulley inflammation, spatter (osteoarthritis in the hock joint), or spondylosis (osteoarthritis in the joints of the back). 

What is osteoarthritis in horses? 

A joint consists of bones, cartilage and synovial fluid (joint fluid). Osteoarthritis is not damage to the bone but to cartilage. The function of cartilage is to reduce friction and to relax movement between bones in a joint. Healthy cartilage is smooth and resilient, but osteoarthritis cartilage is rough and stiff. This causes an inflammation, the body often starts to form new bone in response to this because the body cannot produce new cartilage. When forming new bone, nerves can become trapped, which can cause pain and in some cases even paralysis. The inflammation associated with osteoarthritis can be treated and withdrawn, so that the horse has less pain. The symptoms of osteoarthritis can be treated in part, but osteoarthritis cannot be cured. 

What are the causes of osteoarthritis?  

  • Wrong movement/ Overload  
    With monotonous movement, such as training a dressage horse with the same head / neck position every day and performing the same exercise every day, the same joints are always loaded, which considerably increases the risk of wear. 
  • Overweight  
    The extra kilos put more strain on the horse’s joints, which increases the risk of osteoarthritis. 
  • Trauma 
    A horse can suffer damage to the cartilage in the event of a fall or injury. 
  • Hereditary tax  
    Horses can be hereditary, which means that there is already a defect in the horse’s DNA, so there is a good chance that they will get osteoarthritis, without any other cause 
  • Wear due to age  
    It is normal for old horses to have a little wear, this is why old horses often walk a bit stiff and have trouble getting up. 

Management of horses with wear and tear 

Make sure the horses are not on the trail, can move freely and if necessary get a blanket in the winter. In addition, appropriate nutrition is very important. The Hartog Senior is specially tailored to the needs of old horses with wear or other discomfort. A herbal blend has been added to this food that is slightly analgesic and therefore mood-enhancing. 

Related articles

Reduced intestinal function in older horses

The teeth of old horses

The horse teeth: how do they work?

Diseases due to changing hormone balances 

Bad mood due to standing still 

Helping old horses gain and keep weight 

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