Clicking Joints


We are pleased to have a guest veterinarian provide an answer today. At SmartPak, we realize the importance of staying on top of the latest research, nutritional products and horse health issues, while helping to promote increased involvement of veterinarians in the nutritional management of horses. Dr. Jay Merriam was kind enough to respond to this question for us.

My horse is 3, TB and grew quickly. She has clicking in her joints. She clicks every time she steps in both her back fetlocks. Can you suggest a good supplement for her joints? Is EquinylCM a good one? Any others that you can think of that might be helpful or HARMFUL to a young horse? I don’t want to do any damage either! – AV, Connecticut

Dear AV:
“Clicking of the joints” is one of the more common questions we get and is a frequent cause for horses to visit our clinic. In most cases it is related to immaturity, lack of conditioning and sometimes size. It is also (rarely) associated with OCD, but not usually. The mechanism of the sounds is the subject of a lot of speculation and some research. Think of the people you know who can crack their knuckles! It’s the same thing. If you cause a closed hydraulic system to suddenly expand by stretching the membrane, there isn’t enough fluid to fill the space, so oxygen will actually form bubbles and come out of solution and form an air interface with the joint. This is the sound you hear in most cases. It is harmless. One of the other sounds you hear is the cartilages slipping over each other and then falling back into place.

So what to do? Usually, after we’ve ascertained that there is no cartilage damage, lameness or inflammation, we recommend lots of turn out, conditioning and steady regular work. Any lameness should be explored, but the sounds themselves almost never correlate with injury.
Most horses grow out of it, but many continue to click their entire lives.

Jay Merriam DVM
Massachusetts Equine Clinic

Lydia F. Gray, DVM, MA SmartPak Staff Veterinarian and Medical Director Dr. Lydia Gray has earned a Bachelor of Science in agriculture, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), and a Master of Arts focusing on interpersonal and organizational communication. After “retiring” from private practice, she put her experience and education to work as the American Association of Equine Practitioner’s first-ever Director of Owner Education. Dr. Gray continues to provide health and nutrition information to horse owners through her position at SmartPak, through publication in more than a dozen general and trade publications, and through presentations around the country. She is the very proud owner of a Trakehner named Newman that she actively competes with in dressage and combined driving. In addition to memberships in the USDF and USEF, Dr. Gray is also a member of the Illinois Dressage and Combined Training Association (IDCTA). She is a USDF “L” Program Graduate and is currently working on her Bronze Medal. Find Dr. Gray on Google+

Posted in Ask the Vet, Lameness

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4 comments on “Clicking Joints
  1. Shoshana says:

    What about supplementing with Yucca?

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hi Shoshana, thanks for your question! Since clicking of the joints can be related to physical immaturity, a lack of conditioning and occasionally size of the horse, and can indicate joint issues or be a completely insignificant finding, we suggest working with your veterinarian to determine if your horse is experiencing problems or not. Yucca is sometimes supplemented to support a normal response to inflammation, so if your vet finds evidence of joint or other discomfort, it may be recommended along with other common joint supplement ingredients like glucosamine or chondroitin. Your vet will also be able to provide advice on turnout, conditioning, and training. Hope this helps! – Dr. Lydia Gray

  2. Taylour says:

    This is such a relief… my 10 yr old OTTB just started clicking for the first time (after a lot of jumping) and I panicked. I spoke with his chiropractor and he reassured me some, but this article, reiterating everything he already said, just makes me feel that much better. This article couldn’t have better timing! THANK YOU, Smartpak! Love you guys!
    Also, I did tell my Chiro that I put my TB on Smartpak’s Resilience III and he praised it highly, saying it was probably one of the best I could give to my boy. So, that’s also an idea for anyone wondering what to supplement!

  3. Susan says:

    I have an ex-race horse, Standardbred. He makes a clicking sound at the walk, it goes away when he travel’s in other gaits. My vet explained it similar to above “cartilages slipping over each other and then falling back into place” and told me not to worry, as long as he was traveling ok and not lame. This article is very reassuring.
    Thank you Smart-Pak for posting it…

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