Hi Folks,

Some horses begin to need special care due to aging soon after reaching twenty. However, many do not and are fine into their thirties. Like my human friends, aging processes in horses vary and are influenced by genetics, lifestyle, and healthcare. I was just finishing my second career working in mounted patrol on campus (also receiving that memorable NCAA football penalty!) in my late twenties and started my third career as a Professor Emeritus at the Rutgers Equine Science Center when I was in my late thirties! Now that I am in my forties (I know hard to believe right?), I seem to be having a hard time in the morning chasing after my gal HugMe Christi. Nowadays, I need more time to get warmed up because of stiffness. It was only a matter of time before I began to feel and show the signs of aging.

Nelson-2Bswollen-2Bknee-2BcroppedThe general wear and tear on my body has resulted in arthritis, a condition which eventually will affect every horse. Arthritis also can affect humans too. Arthritis is a combination of inflammation and degeneration (wearing away) of the cartilage of the ends of the bones, which make joint bending (called flexion) and weight bearing painful.For some older horses the symptoms remain mild, such as stiffness in the morning after being inactive in the stall. As we begin to move and warm up the stiffness lessens. For others the symptoms can be more severe leading to lameness. As you can see in my picture I have excessive bone growth in my left knee. Although arthritis can be crippling, if caught in its early stages it can be managed successfully with oral glucosamine supplements (think of it as a vitamin) or injectable therapies, which are similar to the lubricating fluid found in joints. Anti-inflammatory drugs are used in combination with these supplements to provide pain relief.

An older arthritic horse can be made more comfortable with certain changes in foot care. A consultation with the farrier and veterinarian regarding the best way to trim and shoe is highly recommended. Soft footing while working is a must, as well as, extra deep bedding for rest. The more a horse can move the less stiff it will become since moving provides joint lubrication. Providing a maximum amount of turnout and not confining to a stall unless medically necessary is ideal.

Lastly, it is crucial that an arthritic horse not become obese as the extra weight will increase the stress on the legs, so from now on I need to watch my doughnut intake!  You can learn Doughnutsmore about taking care of an older horse like me by checking out the Equine Science Center’s fact sheet, “ Care for the Older Horse: Diet and Health “.

As you all know, my friend CC wrote the blog for me in July while I was on vacation. She did such a great job! Thank you CC! Since my advanced aged has begun to slow me down (I’m not a “spring chicken” errrr I mean “spring horse” anymore), I think it’s time for me to slow down my work schedule as well. I will continue to work with my fellow professors at the Equine Science Center whenever possible to provide “Better Horse Care through Research and Education”. However, I have decided to cut my blogging posts to once a month and I am turning my reins over for the second monthly post to some of my Horse Hero buddies. I look forward to reading their blogs once a month, as well as, writing my own. You can visit my Horse Hero pals and learn more about them by going to the Horse Hero page. Remember, if you have a question about an aging horse you can send it to “Ask the Expert”.See you next month and in the meantime I will keep my joints lubricated by moving!
Lord Nelson

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