Winter TLC For Horses With Arthritis

winter-horses2Freezing temperatures and deep snow can be extremely problematic for horses with arthritic and mobility issues, according to Laurie Cerny, editor and publisher of

“If a horse is mildly arthritic during the summer it could become unsound during the winter – especially with equine seniors,” Cerny said.  “Combine cold temperatures, dampness, and deep snow or mud and a horse’s joints can quickly become sore and less flexible.”

Standing around doesn’t help the situation.  “It would be just like sitting on the couch for 8-10 hours and then trying to move,” Cerny said. Keeping horses mobile, supplemented, and as flexible as possible are key to keeping these horses sound until spring.

Here are some other tips for keeping arthritic horses comfortable during the winter:

  1. Feed a joint supplement with MSM, Glucosamine, and HA.  Omegas are also good for keeping inflammation down.
  2. Add a pain reliever like Bute or Aspirin on really bad days.  While you want to be conservative when using these – the benefits out way the risks if you can keep the horse moving and active with a little pain reliever.
  3. Maintain flexibility.  Do stretching exercises on a regular basis.  These can be as simple as manipulating a horse’s head to the right, to the left, and in between its front legs.  Offering a treat at each point will get a horse to do these voluntarily.
  4. Groom with a rubber massager brush on a regular basis.  This will help to increase circulation to large muscle groups.
  5. Try to maintain you regular exercise schedule.  If you don’t have an indoor arena and footing is bad outdoors, try to at least hand walk horses for 10-15 minutes twice a day.  Backing, turning on the forehand, and 90-360 degree turns can also be done on the ground and will help keep a horse supple.
  6. Encourage natural movement in pens by putting hay in several piles . . . so horses have to move from one spot to another.
  7. If snow is really deep in pens, shovel a few paths to make movement easier.
  8. When turnout isn’t possible (like during a blizzard or ice storm) at least move horses from one stall to another.  The movement helps; it also helps with boredom – when stabled for long periods of time.
  9. Consider bedding with straw or old hay.  Deep bedding encourages older horses to lie down.  It’s warmer and softer to lay on straw then it is to lay on a thin layer of sawdust over a rubber mat.
  10. Keep horses hydrated by offering warm water several times during the day.  Adequate water consumption during the winter is crucial to keeping joints lubricated.

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2 Responses to “Winter TLC For Horses With Arthritis

  • Riataranch
    4 years ago

    Thanks for your information.. Its very helpful for me

  • Kristin
    5 years ago

    Those are great tips, we were lucky to have an indoor arena and if we couldn’t get the horses outside every day they got time in the indoor where we moved them around, but our oldies but goodies who did suffer from arthritis, and on some of those really bad days, the supplements and turn out were not enough, we would give them a little banamine and throw one of the little kids on to trot and canter them a little and do lots of bending and shoulder and haunches in, it really made a big difference. Also for our horses who were getting older, instead of the day off after a horse show weekend, we did a light hack in the fields or on trail for 20-30 min to make sure they didn’t just go in the field and stand, and the second day back from horse show was their day off ( we also believe in as much time outside as the horses want)