Best evidence-based maintenance for aging Hunter/Jumpers?

Hey everyone! I know good quality evidence for many of the typical maintenance methods used is limited at best. What have you found to be most beneficial while also somewhat cost-effective to keep your hard working jumpers healthy in the long-term? Interested to know how this differs by area. Thanks!

Massage, chiro, acupuncture etc - How often, I think it’s probably more symptomatic relief for horses and less likely to affect their long term health. They deserve it though.

Laser, shockwave, PEFM etc - only for acute injuries, what about previous injuries?

Osphos, Legend, Adequan, joint injections, etc. Specifically for osteoarthritis.

Supplements, feed, exercise, shoeing, lifestyle etc. ?

I have an outstanding 17 year old jumper that came to me 1 1/2 years ago as a 1.35 meter jumper. He came with pretty significant wind puffs but they seemed to be of no concern and considering his level, expected. I had ridden him for 2 months prior to buying him and he could turn on a dime so bought him without a pre-purchase. Since I was only jumping 3’-3’3", I was the perfect home for this aging jumper. He was on no maintenance at the time. He has a lovely balanced way of movement and is a dream to ride.

Still, because of his age and me wanting to preserve his longevity, i started him on benign things that have been shown to help. Adequan loading every 6 months with an additional monthly single dose, Cosequin ASU plus at 1 1/2 times maintenance dose and during competition season, 3 times a week Previcox. I have had a chiro and a specialty vet who comes across state to do the area jumpers look at him. After flexions,they said he was great and did not need to start injections. So we are staying with the plan. Cheap? No but I feel good that I have chosen a pretty good routine .

Thanks for the reply! That’s wonderful your boy is doing great at 17! I currently have a 12 year old jumper that I do injections on every 6 months and chiro/massage and joint supplement. Have been feeling that injections do more harm than good at this age and will likely start adequan, although it’s hard to get in Canada.

Other people will chime in, but I think that really basic lifestyle choices are going to be the best maintenance you can do for longevity. The biggest ones to me:

  1. Get your horse as much turnout as possible–movement is good for joints, keeps them fit, and keeps their minds happy.
  2. Invest in GOOD farrier work. So many horses are “sound” on poorly-trimmed feet for years, until they aren’t. Underrun heels, imperfect lateral balance, contracted heels–all of these are shockingly common, to the point where a lot of people don’t even recognize them as incorrect. Get balancing radiographs done by the vet from time to time if needed. Make sure all four feet are balanced and as healthy as you can get them, and keep your horse on a very regular trim and shoeing schedule.
  3. Don’t over jump them or drill work in the ring. A horse that knows his job well only needs to be jumped a few times per week at most, and rarely at full competition height. Take dressage lessons to make sure your flatwork is on point, if needed. Trail ride or even just hack around turnout fields to give them a mental and physical break from being in the ring. Lots of walking over varying terrain gets them fit and gets soft tissues as strong as they can be, with very little risk of any injury. Do a good, thorough warmup–to me, 10-15 minutes (at least) of just walking is non-negotiable for the start of any ride.

Like I said, others will chime in, but I think the above are the most important “building blocks” of keeping a horse sound and happy over the long term. Supplements, massage, etc can also be helpful, but they can’t overcome deficiencies in basic horse keeping practices.

3 Likes

Thanks Natalie! I completely agree. I’m lucky enough to have great turnout at my barn and the horses stay out at least 8-10 hours a day in very large fields.
The farrier I use is amazing even though his rate kills me ($380 for 4 steels and nothing special). Every time I try to switch I notice a difference so have decided it’s worth the money.
I probably could spend a bit more time walking at the start of a ride but hack through trails and forest quite a lot.
I like to think I do right by my horses in the traditional ways but want to make sure I’m doing everything I can for the campaigners.

1 Like