Joint Injection Refresher

Learn about using joint injections to help treat common causes of lameness and reduced performance.

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Joint Injection Refresher
Photo: Alexandra Beckstett/The Horse

Osteoarthritis and joint injury and disease. If you own a performance horse or have ever dealt with lameness, you’ve likely heard these words tossed around. This is because the strain of a performance horse’s repeated effort performing movements or clearing fences takes its toll on joints’ synovial fluid and cartilage. 

With osteoarthritis, for instance, cartilage degrades faster than it can rebuild, which in turn causes inflammation in the joint. In addition, the synovial fluid that serves to lubricate and cushion the joint becomes less viscous (it thins). In these cases the pain can come on slowly and subtly until the horse becomes obviously lame or exhibits decreased performance. When this happens veterinarians often prescribe intra-articular joint injections, which they administer directly into joints. By medicating a horse’s joints they aim to decrease inflammation; restore performance level; and protect the existing joint cartilage. This technique will not, however, “cure” joint disease or create new cartilage.

David Frisbie, DVM, PhD, associate professor of equine surgery at Colorado State University, believes that joint injections are the most beneficial joint therapy and provide the most good for horses with active inflammation in one or more joints

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Stephanie Ruff received a MS in animal science from the University of Kentucky in Lexington. She has worked in various aspects of the horse industry, including Thoroughbred and Arabian racing, for nearly 20 years. More information about her work can be found at She has also published the illustrated children’s story Goats With Coats.

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