RISK FAC­TOR

LONG LAY­OFFS

EQUUS - - Eq In Brief -

Healthy joints rely on the health of nearby struc­tures. The ten­dons, lig­a­ments and mus­cles around a joint help to sup­port it as the horse moves. If these struc­tures are weak, the joint may be­come un­sta­ble, lead­ing to arthri­tis over time. An outof-shape horse may not be lame or seem oth­er­wise biome­chan­i­cally com­pro­mised, but his lack of fit­ness is silently stress­ing his joints. Move­ment also helps keep joints lu­bri­cated by push­ing syn­ovial fluid through their spa­ces. Con­sider how stiff your own knees may feel after a long pe­riod of sit­ting.

Of course, a few weeks of rel­a­tive rest be­tween com­pe­ti­tion sea­sons won’t cause a horse to lose enough con­di­tion to threaten joint health. But pro­longed pe­ri­ods of in­ac­tiv­ity can. And it’s not just the lack of move­ment dur­ing these pe­ri­ods that’s prob­lem­atic, but also the risk of stress and in­jury when your horse’s work re­sumes. The older a horse is, the harder it is to bring him back to fit­ness. Add a touch of nor­mal, agere­lated arthri­tis to that equa­tion and an older horse may have an es­pe­cially hard time com­ing

back from a long pe­riod of in­ac­tiv­ity.

So do all you can do keep your horse ac­tive and fit year­round. Keep him on a reg­u­lar ex­er­cise sched­ule and turn him out with an ac­tive herd as much as pos­si­ble. Try to main­tain this sched­ule as he ages, even (and es­pe­cially) if he does de­velop arthri­tis.

Although your first in­stinct may be to leave a stiff horse in his stall, phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity is crit­i­cal to keep­ing the con­di­tion in check, both by en­cour­ag­ing move­ment of fluid within the joint and keep­ing the struc­tures around it healthy and strong. Reg­u­lar turnout in a large space with a friendly herd is an im­por­tant part of man­ag­ing arthri­tis, as is sen­si­ble rid­ing.

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