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3 Common Health Problems That Can Ruin Your Ride

We’ve all had those days where we get on our horses and hope that it won’t be one of “those” rides again. Luckily, there’s more you can do than start your rides with your fingers crossed! We’ve identified three of the most common health problems that are often mistaken as “bad behavior.” Read on to find out what they are and to get smart solutions for less stress and more fun in the saddle.

Arthritis is one of the most common conditions that affects performance and pleasure horses. In fact, it’s believed to be responsible for up to 60% of all lameness. A horse that appears stiff with uneven gaits and a shortened stride or is unwilling to pick up the canter, stop, or turn could be displaying signs of arthritis pain.

Understanding arthritis
Inside your horse’s joints, healthy articular cartilage provides a smooth, slippery surface that allows free movement and contributes to the shock-absorbing properties of the joint. Synovial fluid lubricates structures within the joint capsule and contains components, such as hyaluronic acid, which support and nourish the articular cartilage.

Arthritis is the progressive and permanent deterioration of that articular cartilage. As arthritis sets in, articular cartilage becomes compromised. That disrupts the normally smooth surface, which causes stiffness and discomfort.

If you’ve started to notice that your horse seems uncomfortable or unwilling to work, be sure to talk to your veterinarian about what you’re seeing. Along with regular veterinary care, daily support from a joint supplement may help maintain healthy joints.

Supplement ingredients to help support healthy joints
While joint supplements can’t cure arthritis, they can help provide a steady supply of the ingredients your horse needs to cope with the stress of exercise and maintain healthy joints, such as:


Along with daily support from the right ingredients, you can help keep your horse’s joints healthy with the right care and management.

Provide as much turnout as possible
The constant mobility that comes with roaming and grazing is beneficial for your horse’s joint health, and can help him avoid the stiffness that can come with being still, so try to ensure that your horse has a regular, consistent turnout schedule.

Consider your post-workout routine
When left unchecked, inflammation can have damaging effects on your horse’s joint tissues. That’s why it’s a smart idea to take extra-special care of your horse after tough workouts. Cold hosing, icing, and wrapping are all management practices to consider.

Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome affects 60% of performance horses, and decreasing performance, a change in attitude, and a reluctance to work are all potential signs of this painful condition.

Understanding gastric ulcers
Your horse was designed to graze all day, so his stomach was designed to continuously produce acid to aid in digestion. In a natural grazing situation, the stomach acid is buffered by forage and saliva, preventing it from damaging the sensitive stomach lining. However, many modern horses eat two to three large meals a day with nothing in between, which means their stomachs sit empty for long periods of time.

The longer a horse’s stomach sits empty, the more it’s exposed to harsh stomach acids. Excess acid can build up into the sensitive, unprotected portion of your horse’s stomach and eat through the lining, creating painful ulcers. In addition, acid may splash around the stomach during exercise, irritating the stomach lining and existing ulcers.

If you’re concerned that ulcers could be to blame for your horse’s behavior, be sure to talk with your veterinarian to determine what treatment and management options are best for your horse. In addition to appropriate veterinary care, daily support from the right ingredients is a smart way to help maintain a healthy stomach.

Supplement ingredients to help support a healthy stomach
While supplements can’t cure ulcers, they can help support a normal, healthy stomach, with ingredients like:


To cover all your bases when it comes to your horse’s stomach health, combine the right veterinary care and support from the right supplement ingredients with these smart management tips.

Ensure your horse has access to forage
Ideally, your horse should have free choice access to hay and/or pasture all day, but that’s not always possible (or appropriate, as in the case of an easy keeper). The SmartPak™ Slow Feed Hay Bag (#23939) can help your horse enjoy his hay for as long as possible.

SmartPak Slow Feed Hay Bag

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Feed the minimum amount of grain possible
Large grain meals can increase the acid levels in your horse’s stomach, so aim to feed the minimum amount of grain your horse needs to maintain optimal body condition. For some horses, that’s no grain at all!

Reduce stress in your horse’s life
Stress can increase your horse’s risk for gastric ulcers, so try to think of ways you can make your horse’s life as stress-free as possible. Some ideas to consider include providing as much turnout as possible (preferably with other horses to allow for social interaction) and keeping a consistent feed, turnout, and exercise schedule.

Provide extra support during stressful situations
UlcerGard is the only nonprescription medication approved by the FDA for the prevention of gastric ulcers, which makes it a great choice for supporting your horse during stressful events like traveling and competing.

UlcerGard

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Understanding nutritional deficiencies
Some horses need more magnesium than a typical diet provides, and clinical signs of magnesium deficiency include nervousness and muscle tension. Your horse should be getting magnesium from his basic diet, but because horses in moderate to heavy work have additional requirements for magnesium, it may not be enough.

Similarly, horses lacking in vitamin B1 may be anxious, spooky, or unfocused. Because the microorganisms in the hindgut don’t make enough vitamin B1 to fulfill a horse’s daily requirements, your horse needs to have vitamin B1 in his diet to meet his needs. Pasture and grain are a good source of this vitamin, but horses in work and those who don’t have access to fresh pasture or aren’t fed fortified grain may not be getting enough.

If you suspect a nutrient deficiency could be the cause of your horse’s behavior, consider adding a calming supplement to help fill in the gaps in his diet. Calming supplements are designed to bring your horse’s dietary levels of these key nutrients into the optimal range for a healthy, correctly functioning nervous system so he can stay relaxed and focused.

Supplement ingredients to help support balanced behavior
Calming supplements provide nutrients and amino acids that play key roles in nervous system function, such as:


There may be something other than a nutritional deficiency behind a horse with too much energy. Use these smart tips together with the expert advice of your veterinarian and trainer to determine the best way to support a balanced temperament in your horse.

Evaluate your horse’s diet
A horse with too much energy may be getting more grain than he needs. Most grains are high in sugars and starches, which can contribute to a “hot” attitude. Instead of big grain meals, your horse’s diet should be based on forage like hay and pasture with just enough grain to maintain his optimal body condition (which may be no grain at all!).

Provide plenty of turnout
Think about how your horse spends his day. Is the arena the only place he gets to stretch his legs? Standing in a stall is quite unnatural for horses—they’re meant to spend their days outside roaming. Providing your horse with as much turnout as possible can help him release energy and relieve stress.

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