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How to Prevent Knee Arthritis in Your Horse: Tips for a Typical Movement Session

A short video of a typical “knee arthritis prevention” session with my senior pony.

By the age of 36, carpal arthritic changes are a fairly common occurrence but there are many things we can do to keep our horse’s knees mobile which can prevent further dysfunction. While we cannot stop the aging process altogether there are some key tissues that must be addressed in order to promote joint mobility and longevity. With movement being the number one preventative tool in the kit.

Joints only produce fluid in response to friction whether that be actively generated (i.e the horse moves on their own) or passively generated (i.e. the therapist gently moves the joint). This is one example of how the body auto regulates but we have to provide it the ability to be able to do its job. Confinement and lack of movement are consistently linked with progression of arthritis, therefore keeping our horses moving (without weight on their back) is a top priority in order to give the joints the freedom to do what they are anatomically designed for.

In this video, I share some of the important movements we do weekly which includes a warmup, mobility exercises, cardio and more. In a typical session we would do 2-3 sets of what you see here totalling approximately 25-30min including warmup and cooldown so really not a huge time investment for the major payoffs.

I structure our sessions the same way I used to when I worked as an Exercise Physiologist for humans. One of the best ways to mobilize joints is to use them immediately following a mobilization technique. After having spent thousands of hours working with humans suffering these same types of pathologies these are a couple of the techniques that consistently proved to be successful in improving range of motion and reducing pain.

Please note, the manual therapy techniques are not safe to be performed unless you are therapeutically trained so please do not try those ones on your own horse.

Instead, grab some ideas on how to put together a movement session that challenges various tissues such as muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments, and the very important brain too. Keeping things fun and curious goes a long way in promoting playful movement well into later years (more on this one later!).

Hope this helps provide some ideas on how you can better support your own horses in the management and ideally prevention of carpal arthritis.


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