Winter can be a tough season for your horse’s body, especially their joints, which may become stiff and sore when the temperatures drop and your horse spends less time turned out in a field and more time standing still in a stable. Vet Hetty Hill shares the following joint care advice to help you take care of a horse this winter and keep them sound, happy and mobile all winter long.
Cold temperatures can exacerbate joint conditions in horses. This is especially true of horses and ponies who are getting older, recovering from an injury or only in light work. However, there are things you can do to help reduce your horse’s sufferings and keep his joints loose and pain-free.
- Stable your horse on deep, warm bedding. This will help to keep their joints warm at night and encourages the horse to lie down, thus taking the weight off their limbs for a while.
- You could consider bandaging your horse’s legs overnight for additional warmth. However, exercise caution with this as legs bandaged incorrectly (too tight or unevenly, for example) can cause injury and do more harm than good. If you haven’t much experience of bandaging or think your skills might need some work, ask a qualified person for help. An easier alternative is to opt for leg wraps instead. There are plenty on the market, and some have magnets in them too. Learn more about magnetic therapy here.
- Spend extra time warming up and cooling down before and after exercise to give your horse’s joints more time to react is being asked of them. A horse who is well warmed up is less likely to be injured and a horse who is thoroughly cooled down afterwards is less likely to be stiff the next day.
- Movement can help painful joints, so try to keep your horse as active as possible, with plenty of turnout and exercise in the colder weather. If your fields are too wet, perhaps there is a fenced yard or barn you can safely let them wander around in. Lungeing, using a horse walker and in-hand hacking or groundwork are also easy ways to get your horse moving too.
- Stretching your horse’s joints gently can help to keep them supple and stop them getting stiff. Stretching isn’t just for riding either. Carrot stretches can (and should) be done regularly when you’re on the ground too. The benefits are huge!
- Giving your horse a good groom using plenty of elbow grease can get the circulation going in their body. This helps to reduce stiffness in the process. It’s also a brilliant opportunity for you to look at your horse closely and see any unusual lumps and bumps that need investigating. Grooming time helps to grow the bond you have with your horse too — bonus! Carl Hester’s supergroup Alan Davies, the man behind Valero’s stellar turnout, shares his daily grooming routine to help make your horse’s coat gleam here.
- Ensure your horse has plenty to drink in order to stay hydrated all year round — this is as important in the winter as in the summer too. Being well hydrated will help to keep your horse’s joints lubricated.