Winter TLC for Horses with Arthritis

should i give bute to my horse? should i give my horse msm? how to help my horse's arthritis?

By Laurie Cerny

Freezing 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 to 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:

  • Feed a joint supplement with MSM, Glucosamine, and HA. Omegas are also good for keeping inflammation down.
  • Add a pain reliever like Bute 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.
  • 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.
  • Groom with a rubber massager brush on a regular basis. This will help to increase circulation to large muscle groups.
  • 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 to 15 minutes twice a day. Backing, turning on the forehand, and 90 to 360 degree turns can also be done on the ground and will help keep a horse supple.
  • Encourage natural movement in pens by putting hay in several piles so horses have to move from one spot to another.
  • Shovel a few paths to make movement easier when snow is really deep in paddocks.
  • 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 horses are stabled for long periods of time.
  • 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.
  • Keep horses hydrated by offering warm water several times during the day. Adequate water consumption during the winter is crucial to keeping joints lubricated.

For more horsekeeping tips, go to or

Main Article Photo: Roland zh/Wikimedia Commons - Freezing temperatures and deep snow can be extremely problematic for horses with arthritic and mobility issues.


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