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Joint health for younger Horses
Holistic Horsekeeping.

Joint health is such a concern these days, especially for owners
of performance horses, that it deserves some serious attention.
In this article, weíll be discussing ways to create and maintain
good joint health in young horses. While many horse owners now
consider it normal and acceptable to give joint injections to 4
and 5 year old horses, my clinical experience shows me that
horses should not need this kind of support, if at all, until
much later in life. With excellent management and nutritional
support, itís possible for even hard working performance horses
to have strong healthy joints for many years.

<><> What causes Joint Problems? <><>
To understand how to create and maintain good joint health,
you have to understand the causes of joint problems.

Basically, if the joint fluid stays thick, it
can properly lubricate the joint and keep the cartilage healthy.
Itís when the joint fluid becomes thin that joint problems
develop. What causes joint fluid to become thin? Lack of

Horses start developing joint problems (whether they are
noticeable yet or not) when they begin training or exercising
hard. When horses exercise hard, their bodies create more free
radicals, which then uses up their supply of natural antioxidants
at a faster rate. When the body has more free radicals than it
has antioxidants, one area that suffers is the joint fluid, which
changes in consistency and becomes thin. At this point, the joint
fluid canít properly lubricate the joint, causing wear and tear
on the cartilage. As the cartilage wears down, the joint becomes
less and less stable. To compensate, the body lays bone down
around the joint the stabilize it. At this point, the joint
develops calcium deposits and you can see structural changes on

<><> Creating Joint Health from the Beginning <><>

One of the best ways to create a foundation for joint health is to start
before the foal is even born. Make sure that the pregnant mare
has plenty of vitamins, minerals, and trace minerals throughout
the pregnancy so that the foal is develops good bones and joints.
Once the foal is born it is more difficult to supplement trace
minerals as he is nursing and mare's milk contains mainly macro
minerals like calcium. Be sure and start the foals on good
micromineral supplements as soon as they start to eat some grain
especially if good quality grass is not available.

One of the best and easiest ways to ensure that mare and foal get
all the micro nutrients they need is to feed blue green algae
because itís balanced in calcium and phosphorous. You can also
feed the pregnant mare some alfalfa for its micro nutrient and
calcium content, but donít feed alfalfa to young foals since itís
not balanced in terms of calcium and phosphorous.

Tom Mix and Tony

<><> Joint Health in Growing Horses <><>

To keep joints healthy
in young horses, feed plenty of micro nutrients (from blue green
algae, for instance), and avoid overloading the diet with too
many calories. Studies have linked diets high in carbohydrates
with developmental bone problems like OCD (Osteo Chondrosis
Dissecans). Plus, overfed young horses that are too fat will
overstress their joints with the extra weight. As a general rule,
on young horses I like to be able to feel ribs but not see them.
Youíll also want to monitor their exercise regimen carefully.
Young horses are not fully developed until they are 4 years of
age. While you can certainly start working them earlier, they are
not strong enough to handle heavy work until age 4.

<><> Joint Health in Horses ages 4 to 6 <><>

At this age, horses
are able to handle a full training schedule and start exercising
heavily. To support this transition, feed plenty of good quality
micro and macro nutrients, along with minerals and trace
minerals. Since your horse is exercising hard, youíll also want
to add in antioxidants to neutralize the free radicals being
produced from the heavy exercise. Good antioxidants include blue
green algae (which has beta carotene), Tahitian noni juice, super
oxide dismutase (found in Cell Techís Super Blue Green Algae),
coenzyme Q10, grape seed extract, omega-3 fatty acids, and
certain minerals such as sulphur (found in the supplement MSM).
Stick with natural antioxidant supplements (i.e., those in their
natural form) as much as possible since the body can use
naturally occurring antioxidants more efficiently than synthetic

At this point in your horseís life you want to focus on good
nutrition and antioxidants to prevent cartilage damage. Feeding
joint supplements like glucosamine, which is a single component
of the cartilage, is not as helpful. It will not prevent
cartilage damageóantioxidants do a much better job of it. In
fact, you want to delay the use of joint supplements as long as
possible using the methods discussed above. Please note that it
is not normal for horses to develop joint problems at this age.
Joint problems at this age indicate a lack of nutrition,
specifically antioxidants.

The joint injection called Legend, which is hyaluronic acid, is
one substance that can be used to prevent cartilage damage and
reduce inflammation after a joint has already been damaged.
Hyaluronic acid will thicken the joint fluid and decrease
inflammation in the joint (which is the result of free radicals
and can thin the joint fluid). If your horse a little sore after
a particularly hard workout or show, you may want to consider
giving him Legend. Just remember that you can only give your
horse so many joint injections in his lifetime, and that each
injection increases the chances of introducing infection. Legend
can also be given intravenously, which is less risky. Overall, if
you have the choice, use excellent nutrition and antioxidants
before resorting to joint injections.

<><> Example <><>

Just to give an example of how a young horse
might be worked and supplemented, consider my mule Jake. Jake is
4 years old and I work him five times a week for an hour per
session. Heís learning to get his hind end up underneath him, how
to back up, and generally using his muscles a lot. Heís building
up his strength and learning to carry himself, which can be hard
work. I feed him probiotics such as Fast Track or Cell Tech
Essentials, blue green algae, and Tahitian noni juice twice a
day. If heís had a hard workout, he may get regular Bowen
sessions, too. Although every horse is different, Jakeís case
should give you a good idea of where to start designing a program
for your horseís optimal joint health.

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