Why exercise is vital for older horses in winter

At any time of year—but particularly during cold weather—the less an older, arthritic horse stands around, the healthier his joints will be.

With colder weather approaching, older horses with arthritis may begin to feel a bit “creakier.” One of the best things you can do to manage their condition is to keep them moving.

Two horses turned out in a grass pasture at sunrise
Turnout with active, friendly herdmates and room to move can help keep an older horse fit year-round.

Slow, regular exercise supports joint health in two ways: First, it boosts lubrication in the joints by circulating synovial fluid. Second, it keeps the muscles, tendons and ligaments that stabilize a joint strong. The less an older, arthritic horse stands around, the heathier his joints will be.

Exercise for an older horse with arthritis doesn’t have to be under saddle. Turnout with an active but friendly herd in a good-sized paddock can provide sufficient activity. If weather conditions limit turnout, hand-walking in an indoor arena or even up and down the barn aisle a few times a day is better than nothing.

Don’t worry if he looks a bit stiff when you start; let him move at his own speed and he will “warm up” and move more comfortably after a few minutes. The key is consistency: Even a single day spent confined to a stall can contribute to further joint deterioration.

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