Arthritis: When Bones Collide

Osteoarthritis probably accounts for the end of more equine performance careers than any other single cause. And until recently, it was considered an irreversible process.
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The old gray mare, she ain’t what she used to be. She doesn’t move as easily as she once did; she doesn’t jump fences or wheel around the paddock with the same grace and fluidity she had in her youth. On cold and rainy days, she comes out of her stall feeling positively creaky. She doesn’t care for having her feet held up for long periods of time by the farrier, or for working on hard ground.

What’s up with the old gray mare? Well, in a word, osteoarthritis. Whether it was years of wear and tear that started the process, or a single, traumatic injury, she’s now experiencing the painful after effects–when synovial fluid in her joints thins and fails to lubricate, the cartilage that provides a smooth articulating surface breaks down, and bone ends up grinding excruciatingly against bone. No wonder the old gray mare doesn’t want to flex her joints the way she once did!

Osteoarthritis probably accounts for the end of more equine performance careers than any other single cause. And until recently, it was considered an irreversible process. New research, however, offers some hope, and there are now several treatments that can significantly improve joint lubrication, slow or halt the deterioration of the joint surfaces, and reduce pain and inflammation–giving horsemen valuable options for coping with this destructive condition

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Written by:

Karen Briggs is the author of six books, including the recently updated Understanding Equine Nutrition as well as Understanding The Pony, both published by Eclipse Press. She’s written a few thousand articles on subjects ranging from guttural pouch infections to how to compost your manure. She is also a Canadian certified riding coach, an equine nutritionist, and works in media relations for the harness racing industry. She lives with her band of off-the-track Thoroughbreds on a farm near Guelph, Ontario, and dabbles in eventing.

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