Does Your Older Horse Have Clicky or Crunchy Joints?
It’s not unusual for older performance horses to have joints that click, crack, or crunch, especially when you first warm them up. Although these “crunching” noises can sound a little alarming, there’s no need to panic. The noises are just a result of aging horse joints, and can be alleviated with some simple holistic horsekeeping methods.
Horse Joint Care for Older Performance Horses
There are several reasons that older performance horses have joints that make clicking or crunching noises. First of all, horse joints are areas of the body that do not have much circulation, which in turn prevents the body from healing or removing toxins from those areas. Second, years of hard training and performance can take their toll on joints, wearing down and thinning the cartilage in the joints, or causing arthritic changes.
Luckily, there are three simple steps you can take to help your older performance horse have healthier joints, and better perform his job.
Horse Joint Care Step #1: Apply Formula 11
Because horse joints naturally have low circulation, one way to increase joint health is to increase the level of circulation to those areas. Applying Formula 11 topically to your horse’s joints before you ride him can help. Formula 11 is a topical liniment made of certain herbs that stimulate circulation, especially around joints.
The ingredients in this formula include white oak bark, black walnut hull, marshmallow root, mullein leaf, scullcap, indian tobacco, knitbone, cayenne, and gravelroot. Also called the “edible liniment,” this product comes in a do-it-yourself powder form that you mix with apple cider vinegar. Your older horse will love Formula 11.
Horse Joint Care Step #2: Long Slow Warm Up
Older performance horses need more time to warm up before their joints, muscles, and bodies are ready to go at top speed. Giving your older horse a long, slow, bi-lateral warm up will help him perform at his highest level. For instance, starting out by walking your horse in large slow circles while allowing him to stretch his neck down and out will not only increase circulation to his topline muscles, but will also increase blood flow throughout his body.
While your horse may have been able to go from zero to hand gallop with just five minutes’ worth of warm up a few years ago, he may now need 30-45 minutes to warm up, most of it at slower speeds. Plan accordingly to arrive at performance events earlier so you can give him the warm up he needs. In addition, regular slow work at the walk and the trot, in addition to lateral exercises, will keep your older horse’s joints in good working order.
Horse Joint Care Step #3: Joint Supplements
In last month’s article we covered a number of joint supplements, many of which can help the older horse who is still working hard. For horse joints that click or crunch, Adequan is an excellent joint supplement. This is an injectable solution containing PSGAGs (a component of joint cartilage). The normal dosage of Adequan is a course of 5-7 intra-muscular injections, 5 days apart, followed by once-a-month injections for maintenance.
If you don’t feel comfortable with the idea of injections, an alternative to Adequan is Cosequin ASU in the professional strength. This oral supplement combines glucosamine with chondroitin sulphate, minerals, and antioxidants. Most horses enjoy the taste of this supplement, and a single bottle will last almost 3 months on the maintenance dose. You can learn more about Cosequin ASU and other horse joint supplements here.
Older Performance Horses and Joint Care
Many performance horses are like fine wines: they improve with age in terms of skill and ability. The key is to keep these older horses active by keeping their bodies healthy and sound. As always with holistic horse care, a solid nutritional foundation provides the basis for general health, while specific supplements offer additional joint support. I like the Simplexity APA Blend or Essentials as a general nutritional foundation, and then add supplements as needed to address a horse’s specific health issues or chronic weaknesses.
Dillon: A Case Study of an Older Roping Horse
In this newsletter I talk about the various ways you can help an older performance horse work at the peak of his ability. Dillon is the perfect example of this type of horse. As a 14-year-old roping horse who excels at both heading and heeling, Dillon has started showing some signs of wear and tear. For instance, while this gelding is still winning at many jackpot ropings and rodeos, he is starting to have the following chronic health issues:
- clicking joints during warm up
- weight loss, especially at ropings
- dull hair coat
- tiring during ropings
Because Dillon is a Yang Ming horse temperament type (a Metal/Earth type), it is no surprise that he is developing these issues as he ages (learn more about temperament types at the Horse Harmony website). Metal-type horses tend to be “dry,” both in hair coat and in their joints. As such, these horses need extra support in terms of a strong nutritional program, joint supplements, and fat.
In Dillon’s case, I would suggest starting putting him a Simplexity Essentials for extra stamina during ropings as well as improved digestion. The Essentials are daily packs that include blue-green algae, probiotics, and enzymes. One to two packets a day should be sufficient.
For Dillon’s clicking joints, Adequan would be an ideal solution, along with long slow warm ups before ropings. Finally, for his dull hair coat and weight loss issues, adding extra fat to his diet would be a big help. Stabilized rice bran will not only pack on the calories, but will also bring a shine to his dull hair coat. For Metal-type horses, a little fat goes a long way. Since Dillon is a bit thin the rice bran is a perfect solution. For a Metal-type horse who is already fat, chia seeds are an excellent source of fat that won’t make the horse fatter.
I hope this case study helps you if you have an older performance horse who does great but just needs a little extra support to keep going on the show circuit.
About the Author
Madalyn Ward, DVM, owns Bear Creek Veterinary Clinic in Austin, Texas. She is certified in Veterinary Homeopathy and Equine Osteopathy.
Memberships include American Veterinary Medical Association, American Association of Equine Practitioners, American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, Texas Veterinary Medical Association and the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy.
She has authored several books and publishes at her blog.