Managing Arthritis

Top Tips for Managing Arthritis in Senior Horses

1.  MOVEMENT:  24/7 turnout on acreage in a herd.

Horses are designed to move.  The more the horse can move, the healthier they will be.  If the horse’s movement is limited, you will likely see an increase in stiffness as they age and the progression of arthritis.  Senior horses can thrive when their living environment encourages movement.

2.  REMOVE GRAIN FROM DIET and replace with forage. (If a horse can’t chew hay, feed soaked hay pellets or cubes).  Grain is inflammatory; so is arthritis.

3.  OMEGA 3 FATTY ACIDS supplementation.  They are anti-inflammatory.

4.  EXERCISE.  Just going for a walk can help keep the body moving and healthy.  As the saying goes, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.”  This is true of people and of horses.

5.  GLUCOSAMINE is a first level joint supplement.  It helps repair the joints.  According to the Horse Journal, you need a minimum of 10,000 mg per day to make a difference.  Often times it can take three months of supplementation before you see a difference.

6.  GREEN LIPPED MUSSEL is another option for a first level joint supplement that helps repair the joints.

7.  MSM:  If after three months of glucosamine, the horse still needs additional support, you can add MSM. It can help with pain relief.

8.  HERBS:  Other options for pain relief are herbs. Some common pain-relieving herbs are devil’s claw, yucca, boswellia, and willow bark.  (Bute-less is a product made of some of these herbs).

9.  ACUPUNCTURE AND BODY WORK.  They are a wonderful compliment to helping senior horses maintain comfort as they age.

A note about pain relievers:  The big draw back to pain relievers is that they can eventually stop working, even herbal ones.  When pain becomes unmanageable for the person, euthanasia typically follows.  This is why I always begin with a joint repairer, like glucosamine or green lipped mussel as the foundation of any joint supplementation.

In addition, at no time do I advocate synthetic drugs for a chronic condition such as arthritis.  While pharmaceutical drugs have their place for emergencies and acute conditions, they compromise a senior horse’s health when used over the long-term.

By addressing a senior horse’s needs through a living environment that encourages 24/7 movement, exercise, removal of grain from the diet, supplementation of a joint repairer like glucosamine or green lipped mussel, pain relief if needed through msm or herbs, and acupuncture and other body work,  senior horses can thrive in their golden years.

This horse lived to 38 years old, still the leader of his herd.  He lived out 24/7 the 11 years he had in retirement, had a grain free, forage-based diet, and regular body work.  He was supplemented with glucosamine.  This was him just before his 38th birthday.


This horse live to just shy of his 31st birthday.  Glucosamine and msm increased his comfort as he aged, but it was the 24/7 turnout on acreage in a herd that kept him mobile.