Hoof Nutrition Intelligence Hoof Nutrition Intelligence is a twice-a-month web segment that is designed to add to the education of footcare professionals when it comes to effectively feeding the hoof. The goal of this web-exclusive feature is to zero in on specific areas of hoof nutrition and avoid broad-based articles that simply look at the overall equine feeding situation.

Below you will find Part 2 of the latest question and answer installment that you can share with your footcare clients.

Q: Can a change in diet help my 4-year-old gelding overcome some serious joint concerns?

By Kristen M. Janicki, M.S.

A: Joint trauma, extended confinement, poor conformation, improper shoeing and age are the primary contributing factors to degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis (OA) in mature horses. The main initiating factor is trauma, whether as a single or repeated event.

A resulting trauma may reflect abnormal forces on normal tissue or physiologic (normal) forces on abnormal tissue, according to Annette McCoy, a University of Illinois veterinarian. It does not have to directly affect the articular cartilage.

Since the joint is an organ that consists of many tissues, an injury to any one of them can lead to OA. For example, there is good evidence that inflammation starting in the synovium or the joint capsule, can initiate a catabolic cascade that eventually results in cartilage destruction, even if there was no initial structural damage to the cartilage. 

Unfortunately, a major challenge in managing OA is that by the time clinical signs, such as lameness occurs, irreversible damage has already occurred.

Little can be done to improve joint health through diet once the horse reaches 1 year of age. Oral joint supplements and injections might help prevent or delay joint issues, but little can be done nutritionally other than to provide a basic diet that meet the horse’s daily requirements.

Kristen Janicki is the nutritional services coordinator at Buckeye Feeds in Dalton, Ohio.

Click here to read part 1 of the Sept. 16, 2021, installment of Hoof Nutrition Intelligence: Are fever rings in the hoof due to changing nutritional needs? Click here to read more installments of Hoof Nutrition Intelligence.