Cold winter weather can be difficult for all types of species, including horses. When the snow is falling, and the trees are bare, horses can find themselves suffering from stiffness in their joints. As with humans, this condition can be very painful and can seriously impact a horse’s quality and enjoyment of life. It is essential that human caretakers be vigilant toward their horses’ needs during the cold months and provide them with the necessary tools to help alleviate their joint pain. Some helpful ways to deal with horse stiffness include keeping them warm, offering joint supplements, and partaking in light exercise.
There are several methods for keeping horses warm during the winter. They must be protected from chilly temperatures, rain, and wind. Colder weather affects a horse’s ligaments and joints, causing them to seize up and stiffen. By keeping horses warm, their bodies do not freeze up, and they do not experience stiffness. Insulated and heated barns are very important for horses’ joint health, as well as lots of hay for them to relax in. Horses can be blanketed if they will tolerate it. Tender joints can be wrapped in Neoprene to help protect them from the cold, and lined shipping boots can be worn on the lower legs for insulation.
Many human caretakers choose to give their horses joint supplements to help alleviate their discomfort. Common joint supplements given to horses include glucosamine and chondroitin and the antioxidants turmeric and Boswellia. When choosing supplements to administer to horses, it is essential to ensure that they have the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) seal of approval. This ensures the quality level of the supplements, as only companies dedicated to animal wellness receive the NASC seal.
Finally, although it may be counterintuitive, light exercise can be beneficial for horses who are struggling with cold weather. Moving muscles and ligaments can help keep them flexible, thus reducing the chance of seizing up. However, human caretakers must proceed carefully when exercising horses with stiffness in their joints, as too much movement can cause damage. A pre-exercise massage, along with ligament ointment, can provide support to a horse about to engage in movement. Along with keeping warm and offering supplements, a light exercise is an essential tool for helping a horse endure cold weather.