A hot and dry summer might be preferable for us, but for your equine companion it could mean bad news. That’s because hard ground – an issue worsened by warm weather – causes problems for your horse’s feet and joints. Plus, it’s an even bigger challenge for older horses or those with joint issues.
The good news? We’re here to help! In this article we delve into the reasons why hard surfaces cause joint problems, the signs and how to lessen the impact. This way, you can keep your horse safe and injury-free all summer long…
How and why hard ground affects your horse
Simply put, hard surfaces increase the risk of injury. When your horse’s hoof hits the ground, an impact force is created. On softer surfaces, a lot of the impact is cushioned by the ground. Your horse’s hooves, feet and legs are built to absorb the rest.
However, the force increases on firmer ground – like concrete, tarmac, dirt tracks, and even grass if it’s extremely hot. Your horse’s hooves and legs can’t withstand the heightened force. Instead, their muscles and joints take on the brunt of the impact. Your horse’s body is being pushed beyond its capabilities and the shock to their joints can cause major discomfort.
How to tell if the hard ground is an issue for your horse?
If your horse is struggling, the easiest sign to spot is a change in their stride or jump. If your horse is in pain, they’re likely to lose energy, have a shorter stride and struggle to canter or gallop – especially on slopes or hills. And it’s possible their jump will change from a high bascule to a flatter leap because they’re afraid of exacerbating their injuries. In extreme cases, your horse might refuse to jump altogether and will be unwilling to stride out.
Other signs that your horse is affected by the hard ground are:
- Inflammation of the joints
- Bruised feet
- Injuries like sore shins or tendon and ligament damage
- Changes in their body language
- Aggressive behaviour
On the other hoof, unforgiving ground might not be the sole reason for horse joint issues. Uneven surfaces, potholes, hot conditions and poor conformation can all influence your horse’s susceptibility to injury. If you suspect your horse is suffering, you should always get them checked over by a vet.
Tips to lessen the impact on your horse's hooves
If your horse trots on hard surfaces most of the time – or if the ground is abnormally firm because of the heat – it’s important to give their hooves a helping hand. Here’s just a few of the ways you can help their hoof health:
- Wet your horse’s hooves before applying dressings. This will lock in moisture which helps with flexibility and strength.
- Protect your horse against ticks, flies and other pests. When insects are bothering them, they’ll often stamp or scrape their hooves. This repetitive motion can cause injury – especially if the ground is hard!
- Check the ground for ruts, potholes or general unevenness before riding so you know which places to avoid
- Ensure your farrier – the person who shoes your horse – looks out for any balance problems. Plus, protective shoes (like supportive boots or studs) can protect your horse’s hooves from high impact forces. Just like how we would wear running trainers instead of going to the gym barefoot!
- Avoid hard grounds when you can. But if you do go out on firm surfaces, try to keep the pace slow and steer clear from high impact activities like jumping.
- Try a supplement to keep their joints healthy and strong. Our YuMOVE Horse range helps boost mobility and supports joint structure in horses of all ages. If your horse is already on YuMOVE, why not check out our guide on getting the most from YuMOVE Horse?
Does your horse stay outside all-year round? If so, you’ll probably have less control on how they behave. But don’t fear, our handy guide is full of helpful advice to keep your outdoor horse healthy and fit.