Arthritis is a chronic condition found in many race horses and it is not just older horses that suffer from it. In this article we provide some insight into how alternate exercise in a water walker can help to manage such condition.
Let’s start by defining what is arthritis?
Arthritis is progressive and permanent deterioration of articular cartilage, the specific type of cartilage that lines the ends of bones where they come together to form a joint, such as your horse’s fetlock. Healthy articular cartilage provides a smooth, slippery surface that allows free movement and contributes to the shock-absorbing properties of the joint. As arthritis sets in, articular cartilage becomes compromised, which disrupts the normally smooth surface, causing stiffness and discomfort.
Exercising in water has many proven benefits most of which are also great for helping to manage horses with arthritis.
Firstly the low impact nature of the exercise means that any degradation to cartilage thats occurs in track work is avoided whilst still providing the horse with cardiovascular fitness and building muscle strength at the same time.
Increasing blood flow is another benefit. Exercise in water has been proven to stimulate blood flow which helps in the prodution of new cartilage to reduce cartilage breakdown. Supplementing additional glucosamine into the horses diet at the same time will enhance any benefits. We normally exercise horses for 20-30 minutes in the water and also see noticeable reduction in inflammation.
Finally, controlled exercise in a water walker is great for mobilising joints and freeing up movement. Not only are the benefits physical. Mentally you will see noticeable improvement in your horses attitude as the normal pain suffered for basic movements is reduced or in some cases temporarily removed.
Whilst it is not possible to get a horse race fit in a water walker, a stuctured pre-training program will allow your horse to commence 3/4 pace work with free movement, minimal joint inflammation and little to no further cartilage breakdown. Supported with the right supplements such as glucosamine or medical treatments like Chondroitin, you will enhance the likelihood of your horse getting to the races in a strong physcial and mental condition.
Arthritis rarely goes away once present in a horse. However developing a training and supplement plan to properly manage arthitic conditions can extend your horses racing life and significantly improve performance.