Prolonging the Career of a Working Horse

Working horse

What is a Working Horse?

A working horse can be classified as any horse involved in labor or athletics. This includes horses that participate in the following activities:

  • Jumping
  • Racing
  • Pulling
  • Trail riding
  • Farm work
  • Long distance riding
  • Reining
  • Barrel Racing
  • Driving
  • Eventing
  • Dressage
  • Many other occupations

These athletic activities put extra strain on the muscles and joints of the horse. The horse’s joints will begin to wear as it continues to work and perform, often leading to discomfort, loss of mobility, and bone-on-bone movement. Unfortunately, the deterioration of the horse’s joints often lead to a shorter career.

Younger horses are physically strong but are immature and lack experience. Older horses are mature and well trained, but their bodies are no longer in peak condition. Although different for each discipline or workload, there is a short window of time where the horse is in peak physical and mental condition. For example, most Dressage horses perform between the ages of 8-10, where racing horses tend to start competing and retiring much earlier. This can be frustrating for many horse owners who are continually training new horses.  After investing so much time, money, and love into our working horses, it’s understandable that we want to see them stay at the top of their game for as long as possible. So, how do we extend the working life of our horses?

Prevention = Preservation

It is much easier to prevent a joint injury than to fix one. Therefore, prevention is key when discussing how to extend the career of a working horse. By taking the necessary steps to protect your horse’s joints, you are protecting the investment you have made into that horse. Below are a few tips on how to extend the career of your working horse.

Balanced Diet

  • A balanced diet is one of the most important factors in extending the career of your horse. Improper nutrition can lead to a range of hoof, joint, skin, and health related issues.
    • For example: Excess protein in a horse’s diet can cause inflammation in the joints.
  • Providing proper nutrition supports the energy and strength needed to meet extra physical demands. This can make the horse more resilient to injury, recover faster after work, and provide essential nutrients for proper health.

Pregnancy and Birth

  • Many aspects of your horse’s health can be influenced during pregnancy. This is particularly true in the case of joint and bone health. Fetal development is dependent of the nutrition and health of the mare.  Ensuring that the mare is healthy and receiving proper nutrition can help the development of a newborn foal.
  • The health and development of a young foal is a foundation for a healthy adult horse. Improper nutrition and care can negatively affect this development and lead to future problems.

Hoof Care

  • A horse cannot perform at its full potential with unhealthy hooves. Horses inflicted with a hoof related issue can experience pain, discomfort, or become lame. Even a small hoof crack can lead to serious issues if left unchecked. Attempting to perform with unhealthy hooves can also lead to injury.
  • If your horse is inflicted with a hoof related issue that is causing pain, it may begin to distribute its weight to the other hooves for relief. This weight imbalance can weaken the other hooves and apply more pressure to the joints.
  • Unbalanced hooves can also create future hoof and joint problems for your horse. Balanced hooves evenly distribute the weight of your horse across all four hooves. If the hooves become unbalanced, this distribution becomes uneven, and adds extra weight to certain joints. If this uneven distribution continues, joint and hoof problems may follow.
  • A regular farrier schedule along with daily hoof care, a balanced diet, and hoof supplementation can all help maintain healthy hooves.

Supplementation and Remedies

  • Supplementation can be used to help ensure your horse is receiving the nutrients needed to maintain healthy joints, hooves, or maintain body condition. Providing a joint formula is especially important for the working horse. Feeding a quality joint formula regularly and early in the horse’s career can help protect the joint from injury and extend the life of your horse’s joints.
  • When supplementing with a joint formula, it is also important to be mindful of over supplementation. Especially if you are feeding a separate hoof supplement. We recommend using a combination hoof and joint formula that not only helps lubricate and reduce inflammation in the joints, but also strengthens the ligaments that support the joints.

Proper Training

  • It is important to know the limitations of your horse while training. Don’t push your horse too hard too fast, and always warm up before going to work. Start out slow and work your way up. Pushing your horse past their limitations can damage the joints and lead to injury. An injury early in your horse’s career can lead to future problems, and an injury late in your horse’s career can end it.

If your horse is injured or begins experiencing joint pain, it is important to consult with your veterinarian. Feel free to contact us if you have questions regarding equine health at cservice@lifedatalabs.com.

Does My Horse Need a Joint Supplement?

Farrier Holding JointSome of you may already be asking yourself the question, “Should I be feeding my horse a joint supplement?” Maybe you’re noticing that your once energetic horse is slowing down and seems to be stiff and not as nimble. Perhaps your award-winning steed is now taking longer to recover after a competition or a long ride. Maybe your horse is young and thriving and you want to prolong its life and career. We all want to see our horses live a long, healthy, and enjoyable life, but can a joint supplement really make a difference? Would your horse benefit from receiving a joint supplement?

Before we go on any further, we first need to establish what is a joint problem. To make the joint work, it takes the collaboration of tendons, cartilage, bone, soft tissue, and fluid. Any number of these working parts can develop problems and create discomfort in the joint. Some of you may not consider a joint problem an issue until it’s just that – an issue, but a joint problem begins at the first signs of discomfort in the joint. If you ignore the first signs of a problem, it will likely bring more discomfort and develop more issues for you and your horse. If you pay close attention, you can catch the signs of joint discomfort before it develops into something worse or creates irreversible damage.

So, how do we know a problem is there? As the horse owner, you will spend more time with your horse than anyone. You are familiar with your horse’s personality, habits, the way it walks, and so on. You are the first person in a line of checks and balances concerning the health and well being of your horse. Watch the way your horse walks and runs. Keep an eye out for any changes to it’s gate or any initial signs of discomfort. These signs of discomfort can especially be seen when you pick up the foot to clean and pick the hoof. Also discuss your horse’s health with your farrier. If you’re regularly maintaining your horse’s hooves, your farrier will be working with your horse’s feet and legs on a regular basis. Your farrier will see the signs of discomfort in the joints as they watch your horse walk or pick up the foot to work on the hoof. Your veterinarian can also assist you in determining if there is an actual problem.

Horse Jumping

It is also important to note that it is much easier to prevent a joint issue than to try and fix one. Prevention is all about protecting the joint before a problem can develop and extending the life and durability of your horse’s joints. Prevention is especially important for horse owners that are regularly using their horse for competition or for work. Competing with your horse in the form of racing, jumping, dressage, three-day eventing, reining, roping, barrel racing, or other athletic competitions and training will regularly apply stress to the joints of your horse. These horses are at the highest risk of developing joint issues or suffering from a joint injury.

Just think of a human athlete. How many NBA, MLB, or NFL stars have we seen fall early in their careers due to an injury involving a joint? Today, these stars are taking precautions to extend the life of their careers. Eating healthier, stretching, taking supplements and staying in shape. It is an investment for them to prolong the life of their careers. We can do the same thing for our athletic horse and extend the life of their athletic careers through their diets, training, and supplementation. Feeding a joint supplement like Farrier’s Formula® Double Strength Plus Joint will provide the nutrients important for the health of the joints and will make the joints more flexible and less prone to injury. These nutrients will also help your horse recover more quickly after a competition and compete at its peak performance. By feeding a joint supplement early you’re not only preventing future problems but investing in the longevity of your horse.

Supplementing will also help relieve discomfort and pain for a horse that has already developed joint issues. If you have an athletic horse that developed an injury during competition or training, the nutrients in a joint supplement will help rebuild and strengthen the connective tissue within the joint. Feeding the supplement will also provide relief to the problem areas, allowing your horse to regain movement that was once too painful to make. This is especially important for the older horse who may be arthritic or have problems due to the build up of past injuries. This will prolong the longevity of your horse, strengthen the joints, and help prevent issues from worsening.

AffectJointHealth3

You may not be jumping hurdles or taking your horse on week long rides, but it doesn’t mean problems can’t occur. Feeding a joint supplement is never a bad idea, especially if you are seeking to extend your horse’s ability to work and compete or wish to address issues developed from injury or age. If you are looking for a joint supplement, we recommend Farrier’s Formula Double Strength Plus Joint. Farrier’s Formula® Double Strength Plus Joint strengthens the connective tissues of the joints, tendons and ligaments and contains nutrients to promote lubrication of the joints. The inclusion of proline, ornithine, glucosamine and manganese provide targeted joint support. This product contains the sulfur needed for joint health in the form of the amino acids methionine and cysteine. Farrier’s Formula® Double Strength Plus Joint also provides nutrients important for hoof growth and joint health without the concern of over supplementation that could occur from feeding a separate hoof and joint supplement. If you have any questions on Farrier’s Formula® Double Strength Plus Joint, proper supplementation, or on joint health please call us at 1-800-624-1873.