It’s important to pay attention to your horse’s mobility, especially as he ages. Here’s some expert advice on how to keep him moving with ease throughout his lifespan.
Regardless of horse age, breed, or level of activity, one of the most common challenges faced by equestrians is how to keep a beloved equine feeling limber, strong, and above all else – comfortable. Whether your companion is an elite performance horse or a retired pasture pet, this professionals advice to improve mobility will come in handy!
Causes of loss of mobility
Dr. Amy Cook of Nebraska Equine Veterinary Clinic in Omaha, Nebraska explains that “various types of arthritic conditions, osteochondral developmental lesions as well as injuries” may contribute to equine mobility issues.
Conditions vary widely depending on a horse’s age and type of performance. “In younger horses we can see juvenile arthritis and OCD lesions,” says Dr. Cook. “In older stock-type horses, we are often dealing with arthritic conditions such as navicular disease and fusion of the distal hock joints.”
“Treating lameness and/or mobility issues may start with something as simple as improving mechanics associated with the foot via shoeing changes,” says Dr. Cook. “Proper year-round hoof care is very important.”
John Weber of Weber Farriery elaborates on the topic of hoof health. “Utilizing anatomical farriery to keep feet balanced helps maintain a full range of movement,” he says. “Trimming for correct loading and landing encourages proper mechanics, range of motion, and stride. It’s essential to trim to match the angle of the horse’s coffin bone (P3) instead of trimming for aesthetics alone.”
Holistic veterinary medicine
Dr. Diane Simmons of Holistic Veterinary Practice in Ralston, Nebraska points out the need for proper training, fitness, nutrition, and routine healthcare to maintain equine mobility. “Both acupuncture and chiropractic care can be very beneficial, especially to horses doing repetitive activities that may cause the body to get more constricted and off balance,” she says.
While some problems require multiple treatments, Dr. Simmons finds that “with a chiropractic adjustment, many of the muscular restrictions decrease immediately.” She points out that “if the horse is always needing the same chiropractic treatments over a short period of time, then more questions need to be addressed.” These may include an evaluation of the horse’s lifestyle, how they are being worked, and the surfaces that they are exercising on. Dr. Simmons points out that along with chiropractic care, acupuncture “can be very helpful to decrease inflammation and pain while relaxing the body.”
Dr. Simmons believes that with the individuality of each horse, the best way to improve mobility is to “listen to the horse, beginning with an intense visual observation of the horse and their gaits, then make a plan of treatment.”
The increasingly popular use of equine massage can “assist in improving a horse’s mobility by using various methods and depths of pressure to manipulate the soft tissues of the body” details Christine Walker of Walker Equine Therapies in Omaha, Nebraska. She adds that massage “enables the vascular system to encourage proper blood flow and lymphatic movement. Increased blood flow to an area of tension and pain flushes the system with healthy nutrients and lymph.” Ultimately, this activates the “parasympathetic nervous system, allowing the horse to relax and release tension” which may be inhibiting freedom of movement.
Although dealing with equine soundness and mobility issues can be perplexing, take heart in the variety of experts available to assist! Under veterinary direction many horses are able to experience remarkable improvements due to a variety of options including: hoof care changes, injections, acupuncture, chiropractics, medications, massage therapy, and much more!