Joint disease is a significant worry for horse owners, a study has found, with 66% of horses having suffered lameness as a result of joint problems.
The majority of owners — 76% — said they were concerned about their animals developing osteoarthritis, with 74% feeding their horse a joint supplement for support.
The survey of 1,339 horses, conducted by supplement brand Cavalor, revealed owners’ worries were justified, with a fifth of horses having been off work for a year or more because of joint problems.
Feedback showed the disease was not just an ailment of older horses, with 10 as the average age of onset and 36% of horses showing signs of joint issues by the time they were eight. Thirty per cent of respondents revealed they had retired a horse earlier than expected owing to joint disease.
As well as the welfare implications for horses, joint problems also hit owners in the pocket. They spent an average of £2,104 treating their horses’ joint conditions while 5% paid out more than £7,500.
More than two-thirds (69%) of horses required up to five vet visits for treatment, while 21% needed as many as ten appointments.
This was despite owners’ vigilance when it came to their horses’ well-being — two-thirds check their animals’ legs daily and 90% implement post-competition care.
Cavlor’s survey was carried out in three countries, showing remarkably consistent feedback.
“We already knew that joint health is very important to horse owners but we were surprised by the scale of the problem,” said Cavalor managing partner Lieselot Hamerlinck.
“Once we saw the results from the survey of UK horse owners, we repeated the research in Belgium and the Netherlands. The results from all three countries were very similar so we are confident that this survey provides an accurate insight into joint disease.”
She added that she believes joint disease is an area of equine health that requires “extra vigilance”.
Current treatment of joint pain commonly includes the injection of a drug into the joint capsule to support the body's
Expert advice on how to keep your horse's joints healthy
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“Horses are suffering from joint disease from a relatively young age and it’s tragic that 30% are being retired early as a result of the problem. Horse owners need to look after their horses’ joints all year round, not just during competition or periods of heavy work,” she added.
“Although three-quarters of horse owners are using a joint supplement, it’s about giving the right product tailored to the horse’s individual needs and choosing one that is clinically proven to work.”
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