This article is part of our Joint and Hoof Health Awareness Month brought to you by Cosequin Joint Health Supplements.
As we creep into winter, the temperatures begin to drop and your older horse starts moving a little bit slower. You can tell his arthritis is bothering him, and you know it’s time to adjust how you care for him, but you’re not sure where to begin. Here are four ways you can keep your horse moving this winter.
Continue a riding schedule.
One of the best ways you can help an older horse cope with arthritis in the winter months is to have a plan to keep him moving. Regular exercise not only encourages natural lubrication of joints but helps preserve the muscle tone that holds joints stable. Inactivity, even for a few days at a time, can dramatically accelerate the decline of an older, arthritic horse.
If you live in a milder climate, keeping an older horse moving may just be a matter of maintaining a regular riding schedule. You don’t need to ride an arthritic horse long or fast; a brisk walk is plenty of exercise if that’s all he feels up for on a given day. Remember that even if an arthritic horse feels very stiff when you first mount up, he will loosen up within a few minutes. If he doesn’t, he may have another issue beyond his arthritis and you’ll want to consult with your veterinarian. Riding just three times a week can make a big difference to an older horse, but only when done regularly. If your schedule doesn’t allow consistency, consider enlisting the help of a friend.
Provide daily turnout.
If you’re unable to ride regularly, daily turnout with a stable but active herd can still provide enough exercise to maintain a horse’s joints, but only if the weather and footing cooperate. Many older horses turned out in slick, sloppy, or very cold conditions will not move any more than if they were in a stall. In those cases, you may need to get creative to encourage activity.
Creating a smaller, more protected pasture in an area with better footing is one possible solution. Look for an area where a building or stand of trees might act as a windbreak and the elevation and contours are such that puddles don’t form to freeze into ice patches. Putting an older horse with arthritis in such a space with a friendly companion might be enough to help him stay active, and placing piles of hay at different locations in the space will also help keep him moving.
When good turnout isn’t available, either in the long or short term, hand-walking is an option. Even if you’re just walking an older horse around the arena or up and down the driveway, it’s better than him standing still all day. Three daily walks of 20 minutes each is a good goal.
If your senior horse struggles with arthritis but isn’t on a supplement designed for joint health, winter might be the time to try one. Cosequin’s ASU Pellets are easy to use and help support your horse’s cartilage and joints. Plus the pellet form makes it easy to feed.
Learn More about Joint and Hoof Health Month Here: