31 Jul 2020

Senior Horses with Arthritis Need Exercise Too


Do you know that lameness in horses can be tracked back to arthritis in more than 60% of all cases in the UK?

And although you may think that resting may be more kind to your arthritic horse, a regular and sensible exercise plan will benefit him much more, giving his joints just the right amount of exercise to keep it working as nature intended.

It is always best to consult your vet with regards to your own horse’s needs and specific health challenges, but here are some general guidelines when thinking about exercising your arthritic horse:


  • Pushing your horse to its limits over terrain that is too hard, too soft or too wet puts pressure on joints, increasing the risk of trauma and may lead to arthritis.
  • To reduce the risk of joints stiffening up and becoming painful, the horse with arthritis should have the option to roam freely in a wide-open space like a large paddock or pasture 24/7, if possible. Being confined to a small area often compounds the problem, while moving around lubricates the joints and keeps them supple.
  • Often some light riding is possible, and even prescribed, for many older horses suffering from arthritis. Keep to level pathways, free from loose stones or ruts and as soft under foot as possible.
  • A good warm-up and cool-down routine are key in any exercise plan for any horse, but never more so than for a horse living with arthritis. For horses that struggle with stiffness, stretches that are held for only 5 seconds at a time every day over consecutive days are far more valuable than one big stretch that may prove overwhelming and even cause injury.
  • Don’t ask your horse to perform tight circle work to avoid putting additional strain on any affected joints.
  • Ponying your horse is another option, easing the pressure by removing the weight of the tack and rider. Just make sure the horse you pony him from has a gait that he can match without exacerbating his condition or ability.

A horse with arthritis who is well toned and moderately active tends to live longer and have a better quality of life.  However, since horses have different pain thresholds, always be aware of your own horse’s comfort level.

Ask your vet for signs that could alert you and lead you to decrease or even temporarily suspend your horse’s exercise regimen, if needed.



Especially in horses with metabolic issues that could easily lead to obesity, the arthritic horse specifically should have a healthy weight.  In arthritis, even relatively small amounts of unnecessary weight could mean the difference between pain and comfort.  Do not let the look of a fat, shiny horse overshadow his need to be comfortable.

Hoof care

Just because your horse is retired or semi-retired, it does not mean that he doesn’t need regular hoof care. Remember that the longer the time an arthritic horse has to wait between one trim and the next, the more painful the transition may be.  A 6 – 8 week trim schedule for arthritic horses should keep them in optimum comfort.


A good quality supplement that boosts your horse’s general wellbeing and lends support to inflamed joints will go far in improving his quality of life.  While many people only add this type of supplement when they pick up stiffness in their horse, horses with a conformation issue may benefit from a joint supplement over the long-term, sometimes even starting supplementation from a young age.

Elite Equine 100% Organic Rosehip Supplement is the ideal add-on to your arthritic horse’s diet regime. Its powerful natural anti-inflammatory action works in synergy with the horse’s own inflammatory response to address the pain and discomfort caused by this sometimes-debilitating condition.

To read more, or to place and order, please visit