Is your horse plagued by cold weather stiffness? Exercise and joint support supplements can help alleviate his discomfort.
Your horse doesn’t have to be a senior or have pre-existing problems to develop cold weather stiffness, although those factors can certainly make it worse. While some horses may function quite well in the warmer months, they may have so much trouble with the cold that they find themselves unable to get up from the ground without assistance.
Research has shown us the effects of cold on a variety of body tissues. Muscles reflexively become shorter and stiffer, sometimes to the point that forceful stretching may cause damage. Energy generation is compromised because hemoglobin does not give up its oxygen to the muscles as easily as it does in warm weather.
Cold weather also alters the properties of tendons and ligaments. Flexibility decreases and the force required to passively move these “frozen” joints may increase by as much as 25% with cold exposure. The reduced flexibility is accompanied by considerable stiffness.
The changes in muscle and tendons contribute to difficulty with moving the joints, but there are changes in the joints themselves as well. Cold has been found to increase joint sensitivity. Cold may also interfere with the normal flow characteristics of joint fluid, reducing lubrication.
3 ways to help your stiff horse
1. Keep him warm
The first step in alleviating the effects of coldness on your horse is to keep him as warm as possible, which means shelter from winds and wet weather. If you have a horse that obviously struggles with stiffness, don’t hesitate to blanket. While some joints are inaccessible, you can use Neoprene wraps for the knees and hocks with lined shipping boots on the lower legs.
2. Provide regular (safe) exercise
Exercise is a great way to loosen and improve muscle function; however, you need to be cautious. Stiffened tissues are prone to damage and the horse may not be moving normally if certain areas hurt more than others. Known problem areas will benefit from a few minutes of brisk massage with a warming liniment before exercise. Allow extra time for a long, slow warm up.
3. Offer joint support supplements
Joint support supplements can also be very helpful. In addition to the joint nutraceuticals glucosamine, chondroitin, and hyaluronic acid, look for MSM, boswellia, turmeric, devil’s claw and other antioxidants. Remember to look for the NASC Quality Seal when shopping for joint support supplements to know the product comes from a responsible supplier that complies with NASC’s rigorous quality standards. Visit nasc.cc/members to see companies that have earned the Quality Seal.
There can be a big difference between surviving and thriving during the chilly months. Take action if your horse is struggling with cold weather stiffness!