Equine care: Joints, cartilage wear out on horses, too | TSLN.com

Equine care: Joints, cartilage wear out on horses, too

Photo by Gayle SmithDr. Jason Mez speaks to a group of horse owners about how performance events like barrel racing and cutting can affect joints and cartilage in the horse.

The perfect slide during a cutting, or that tight turn around the barrels – for the performer it means a job well-done, but for the horse it causes excessive wear of the joints and cartilage. As performers ask more from their horses during athletic events, many don’t realize the long-term damage they are causing their mounts.

“Cutting and barrel racing are not normal actions for a horse,” said Dr. Jason Mez, a veterinarian board-certified by the American College of Veterinary Surgeons in 2008. “We ask so much of our horses these days. When you compare these horses to one another, the only demand on wild horses is to walk around.”

Mez practices veterinary medicine at the Sturgis (SD) Veterinary Hospital. He has a special interest in equine orthopedic surgery, arthroscopy and lameness issues, and has worked with many horses with lameness issues.

To demonstrate the strain put on joints and cartilage, Mez showed photographic slides of horses turning the barrels when only one foot was on the ground, and horses sliding to a stop with their hocks nearly touching the ground. “The joint is a connection between two bones,” Mez explained while analyzing the slides. “It allows motion, absorbs shock and dissipates force by taking in all the force from movement and dissipating it.”

The articular cartilage found in joints on the ends of bones is different than the cartilage in the rest of the body, he continued. “Cartilage is about 70 percent water. Degradation begins at birth from the first step they take, and it never comes back. It also can’t be regenerated once its damaged.”

Mez said it is not uncommon for horses to develop osteoarthritis from abnormal wear and tear on joints. “It is self-perpetuating once it begins,” he said. “Any structure in a joint that is damaged continues to release inflammatory mediators. It is a progressive condition that can’t be stopped, and there is no cure. We can only slow it down.”

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The perfect slide during a cutting, or that tight turn around the barrels – for the performer it means a job well-done, but for the horse it causes excessive wear of the joints and cartilage. As performers ask more from their horses during athletic events, many don’t realize the long-term damage they are causing their mounts.

“Cutting and barrel racing are not normal actions for a horse,” said Dr. Jason Mez, a veterinarian board-certified by the American College of Veterinary Surgeons in 2008. “We ask so much of our horses these days. When you compare these horses to one another, the only demand on wild horses is to walk around.”

Mez practices veterinary medicine at the Sturgis (SD) Veterinary Hospital. He has a special interest in equine orthopedic surgery, arthroscopy and lameness issues, and has worked with many horses with lameness issues.

To demonstrate the strain put on joints and cartilage, Mez showed photographic slides of horses turning the barrels when only one foot was on the ground, and horses sliding to a stop with their hocks nearly touching the ground. “The joint is a connection between two bones,” Mez explained while analyzing the slides. “It allows motion, absorbs shock and dissipates force by taking in all the force from movement and dissipating it.”

The articular cartilage found in joints on the ends of bones is different than the cartilage in the rest of the body, he continued. “Cartilage is about 70 percent water. Degradation begins at birth from the first step they take, and it never comes back. It also can’t be regenerated once its damaged.”

Mez said it is not uncommon for horses to develop osteoarthritis from abnormal wear and tear on joints. “It is self-perpetuating once it begins,” he said. “Any structure in a joint that is damaged continues to release inflammatory mediators. It is a progressive condition that can’t be stopped, and there is no cure. We can only slow it down.”

The perfect slide during a cutting, or that tight turn around the barrels – for the performer it means a job well-done, but for the horse it causes excessive wear of the joints and cartilage. As performers ask more from their horses during athletic events, many don’t realize the long-term damage they are causing their mounts.

“Cutting and barrel racing are not normal actions for a horse,” said Dr. Jason Mez, a veterinarian board-certified by the American College of Veterinary Surgeons in 2008. “We ask so much of our horses these days. When you compare these horses to one another, the only demand on wild horses is to walk around.”

Mez practices veterinary medicine at the Sturgis (SD) Veterinary Hospital. He has a special interest in equine orthopedic surgery, arthroscopy and lameness issues, and has worked with many horses with lameness issues.

To demonstrate the strain put on joints and cartilage, Mez showed photographic slides of horses turning the barrels when only one foot was on the ground, and horses sliding to a stop with their hocks nearly touching the ground. “The joint is a connection between two bones,” Mez explained while analyzing the slides. “It allows motion, absorbs shock and dissipates force by taking in all the force from movement and dissipating it.”

The articular cartilage found in joints on the ends of bones is different than the cartilage in the rest of the body, he continued. “Cartilage is about 70 percent water. Degradation begins at birth from the first step they take, and it never comes back. It also can’t be regenerated once its damaged.”

Mez said it is not uncommon for horses to develop osteoarthritis from abnormal wear and tear on joints. “It is self-perpetuating once it begins,” he said. “Any structure in a joint that is damaged continues to release inflammatory mediators. It is a progressive condition that can’t be stopped, and there is no cure. We can only slow it down.”

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