Horse owners are very well aware that the horse joint problems impact the longevity of a horse’s athletic life significantly. And the most common assumption is that these joint problems and diseases result from injuries, as well as ageing and wear with time. And because of that, many think that there is not much to be done about it – and that often impacts horse’s overall quality and length of life.
But think again: sensible and joint-strengthening actions throughout the entirety of horse’s lifetime such as exercise from the very beginning, joint supplements, and prompt treatment can help a horse’s joints function comfortably past their prime.
So here is something more about these 3 ways of improving equine joint health.
1. Early exercise for horse joint strengthening
For rapidly growing horse a proper and balanced exercise is crucial. And mixing exercise management with balanced nutrition gives the best results. “Articular cartilage manages its nutrition and waste product production via normal use and weight bearing,” says Earl Gaughan, DVM, Dipl. ACVS, previously a clinical professor of large animal surgery at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine and now a technical services veterinarian at Merck Animal Health.
“Moderate exercise with gradual increases in intensity and duration results in better cartilage health and fewer injuries than that imposed by sudden, high-intensity loading,”
stresses Gaughan. So, it is important not to exaggerate with it – excessive exercise can cause potential injuries in foals that may result in growth plate trauma or subchondral (under the cartilage) bone cyst formation within horse joints.
Since force that is created by loading the limbs helps to develop bone and soft tissue properly, it is significant to find the right horse exercise balance. It usually includes natural and carefully controlled voluntary exercise such as paddock turnout – for a young horse in training find a middle ground.
The objective is to familiarize the young horse with the longe line or round pen rather than attempting conditioning-training work. “Loading that occurs with normal weight bearing and light turnout exercise may be all that is required for acceptable cartilage development,” emphasizes Gaughan. The use of longeing and round pen work, as well as other human-controlled exercises, should be avoided when starting youngsters until a young horse can be restrained effectively.
You should implement early exercise in a thoughtful and deliberate way, limiting excessive repetition that impacts not only joints, but tendon, ligament, and muscle, too.
2. Horse joint supplements
Researches strongly support the ability of systemic (non-oral) and intra-articular agents containing hyaluronan and PSGAGs to reduce inflammation and protect cartilage against degradation, particularly in injured and inflamed joints.
“Intra-articular (IA) and systemic administration of hyaluronan and PSGAGs (polysulfated glycosaminoglycans) are associated with a reduction in cellular and chemical mediators of inflammation,” explains Gaughan. David Frisbie, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVS, ACVSMR, of Colorado State University’s Equine Orthopaedic Research Center considers these moderators of inflammation, along with the IA corticosteroid triamcinolone, to be chondroprotective (protecting the cartilage).
There are some studies inferring that those agents can potentially protect normal joints from athletic stresses and reduce the severity of the injury. And because of that many horse owners try to maintain horse joint health proactively with the use of joint supplements. Frisbie says that none of these medications is labeled or approved for prophylactic use yet. “For a drug administered through a needle to be labeled for such use, Food and Drug Administration requirements must be met through exhaustive, verifiable research work.”, says Gaughan.
3. Biologic therapy for horse joint treatment
Improving and managing equine joint health that maintains a horse’s athletic life also includes biologic (regenerative) therapy such as IRAP (interleukin-receptor antagonist protein) or stem cell treatments.
“In numerous cases, these therapies have been shown to increase the health of joint tissues over more traditional methods,”
says Frisbie. “Additional value may be achieved with (extracorporeal) shock wave therapy, particularly to address soft tissue structures of an injured joint,” he adds. “Underwater treadmills have also provided good benefits for rehabilitation of an injured joint.”
IRAP for horse joint inflammation managing
To produce IRAP for joint injection, “blood (taken directly from the horse to be treated) is activated on glass beads, incubated, centrifuged, and stored in syringes,” Gaughan explains.
“This IRAP solution blockades interleukin and other major mediators of joint inflammation; it also contains numerous growth factors to reduce inflammation and pain while encouraging tissue healing.”
Stem cell therapy for horse joint treatment
The active ingredient of stem cell therapy is mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) – adult multipotent cells that have the potential to regenerate the degenerated cartilage and, in addition, prevent the formation of scar tissue. MSC also exert trophic, immunosuppressive, anti-inflammatory and anti-apoptotic effects and activate the body’s own stem/progenitor cells, modulating the local environment and thereby stimulating a local tissue repair.
Stem cells “have demonstrated improved cartilage repair over standard surgical techniques alone,”
says Frisbie. And indeed, all over the world stem cell therapies have shown a very high-efficiency rate: up to 85% and, in some cases, even 90%. For more information about horse biologic stem cell therapy, contact us directly. We also provide expert consultations to help you keep your horse healthy.
Conclusion about Horse Joint Health
There are many opportunities for horse owners to manage and improve horse joint health for the best outcome possible.
It is important to maintain balanced nutrition and sensible exercise programs to impact joint cartilage health in the most optimal way.
And in orthopedic disease situations, it is crucial to recognize joint and limb swelling, as well as slight or overt lameness early: obtaining an accurate diagnosis and selecting the appropriate horse joint supplements and therapies, are critical to returning a horse’s joint to optimal function and keeping him happy.