Stiff Horse - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 5 Old 01-22-2010, 10:46 AM Thread Starter
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Stiff Horse

My horse has been really stiff at the beginning of rides lately. His gates are more choppy than usual and he doesn't want to move out. With a slightly longer warm up he limbers up just fine and is his old self. This is a problem I had before when he was in the stall more often, but since he has been in the pasture 24/7 it has not been a problem. I have two theories, one-the grass in the pasture is pretty much gone for the winter, so he is mostly standing at the round bale rather than going between foraging and the bale, decreasing his movement and increasing his stiffness. two-he is just getting older and his racehorse days are catching up to his joints. Should I consider a joint supplement? Or talk to my vet? Or just give him the long warm up and not worry so much?

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post #2 of 5 Old 01-22-2010, 10:18 PM
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Could be a range of things. Need more info. How old is he? What sort of state is he/has he been in? How much riding do you do? Diet? Nutrition? Surfaces/ground he lives & works on? Is he shod, booted or bare?

Even 24/7 paddock horses rarely get close to enough exercise, and if he's standing around more, it's likely to be effecting his feet & his body generally. Is there any way you can set it up so that there are small piles(or nets) of hay in a range of places, instead of just one? That would be a start. You can look into 'Paddock Paradise' & slow feeding for more info.

He may be stiff due to saddle fit issues. Has he gained or lost any weight or muscle recently, and do you check his saddle for fit regularly? Is it off his shoulderblades? Not girthed up too tightly? Balance International have a great site for info on saddle fit. I suspect if it gets better the more work you do, that's unlikely the cause, but it is such a common problem, pays to keep in mind.

He could be stiff due to arthritis, mineral deficiency or imbalance. Magnesium is one nutrient that comes to mind that effects muscles in this way, and is frequently deficient. I like to do a pasture/feed analysis & use a nutritional service( to ensure nutrition is well balanced. Equine Nutritionists or Naturopaths can also be helpful if arthritis is the problem, as supplements can frequently help or alleviate the disease.

He could have sore feet, or joints because of his feet & the way he's moving. Ensure you have educated yourself enough on hoof health & soundness to have a good idea of what's going on with his feet. will give you a good start. Employ a *good* hoof care practitioner. Be that a farrier or 'barefoot trimmer', the above website will also give you an idea of the principles & guidelines to give you an idea of whether your chosen professional is good, bad, indifferent.

He could have his back out, or some other injury that fades with exercise.
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post #3 of 5 Old 01-23-2010, 07:52 AM Thread Starter
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He is 14 years old, barefoot, gets a small portion of oats and black oil sunflower seeds daily, as well as having the round bale.

Sadly, because of the place I board at, I don't have much control over how the hay is distributed.

I could see arthritis being a problem. He's got an old racing injury in one of his back legs that used to swell occasionally, but has stopped since he is outside. Do I need to get a diagnosis from a vet or could I just start him on some supplements and watch for improvement?

Also it has been raining a lot lately so that could be affecting his feet. I know standing in the mud all the time is not great for them.

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post #4 of 5 Old 01-23-2010, 09:28 AM
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I personally don't think it would be a bad idea to put him on a joint supplement because (for example even though it is a dog and not a horse) my vet prescribed a joint supplement for my dog because of a slight give in her knee that could potentially develop arthritis as she aged and also cus she is a large breed dog. At the time she suggested it, my dog was around 5 yrs old I believe. Still pretty young. I don't see how it could do your horse harm, but I would probably call your vet first to see if they like a certain product over another or what they recommend would be good for your horse. :)


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post #5 of 5 Old 01-23-2010, 08:08 PM
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Oh, I was imagining he was an old horse, not one who's hardly middle aged. It sounds like lack of exercise is at least part of the prob. I would be trying to exercise him as much as you can manage. Even if it's only taking him out for a half hr walk twice a day, that would help a lot.

Agree with Appy that a joint supp is probably not a bad idea. Also agree that asking advice from a *good* vet would be prudent. If he has the beginnings of arthritis, you might also ask the vet about Cartrophin(sp?) injections.

If he's only getting what you've told, he'll need a good general supplement, as he's likely deficient in a range of nutrients. It depends what's in the hay & seeds as to what he'll need, so I would be getting a basic analysis done. I'm no nutritionist, and I use a very good(& economical... & independent of feed co's) program called which makes balancing diets easy. A nutritionist may be able to tell you of specific supps that would help too.

Why do you feed oats? Is he in hard work & needs extra energy? While oats are about the safest cereal grain for horses, all grain is potentially problematic and I would be avoiding it unless necessary & no better alternative. I would only feed grain if I could give the ration in at least 3 feeds per day too, rather than just one.

Yes, standing f/t in mud is not good for hooves & can reduce hoof function & therefore circulation & can lead to thrush, which can make heels very sensitive. But IF his feet are in a good way & it's only short term it's not likely to have too much effect, and this sort of sensitivity would not be something that would get better with exercise. Is he shod? If you would like an evaluation of his feet, send some hoof pics, pref just after a trim, clean feet. Front- & side-on from near ground level, and a few different angles of sole, including sighting down from heels on slight angle and side-on on slight angle, to get an idea of depth.
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