Do noisy joints spell trouble?


Q:My 7-year-old gelding’s joints occasional­ly make clicking noises. The sounds seem to come from his knees and don’t have a pattern, as far as I can tell. Sometimes they start as we warm up, other times it’s later in a ride. My horse is sound and doesn’t have any signs of arthritis. Does this noise mean his joints are “tight” or otherwise compromise­d? Should I be doing anything about this noise?

A:In the absence of other clinical signs, these noises are not anything to worry about. Popping noises can occur when nitrogen gas bubbles in joint spaces are released as the joint is stretched. The sound may also be produced when tendons or ligaments slide over other structures. Joint popping may increase as a horse ages.

Another potential source of noise heard while riding is interferen­ce, such as forging (when the hind hoof contacts the front hoof). The metallic clicking sound produced by forging is distinct from the popping of a joint, however, and will often occur rhythmical­ly at a particular phase of a horse’s gait. If you suspect your horse is forging, ask your veterinari­an to investigat­e. Your horse may benefit from an adjustment in his hoof trims and shoes or from boots or other protective gear.

Going back to your original questions: Sounds alone do not indicate a problem with a joint, but if your horse develops other signs of trouble, such as lameness or swelling, then an examinatio­n by your veterinari­an is warranted. Kelly Giunta VMD, DACVSMR

Blue Ridge Equine Clinic

Earlysvill­e, Virginia

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