How much do you know about your horses joints? - McDowell's Herbal Treatments

Horses have three different types of joints - fibrous joints, cartilaginous joints and synovial joints. Often joint issues are seen as an issue for older horses, but our focus should be on supporting joint health throughout a horse's whole life...

Stock horse leg equiflex SML

The first type of joint is the fibrous joints, which are the immobile joints found between the bones in your horse’s skull and between the shafts of some long bones. They do not move and are therefore less likely to cause issues. 

The second type is a cartilaginous joint. An example of cartilaginous is in a horse's spine, pelvis and growth plates. They also have limited movement.

The third is the synovial joints. Synovial joints make up the majority of joints in a horse’s leg. There are eighteen synovial joints in your horse’s body and six different kinds of synovial joints. They have the most movement and are more suffer disease and injury. 

But a joint is more than simply the union of two or more bones; the joint is actually also considered an organ(5)

The synovial joint has a space where the synovial fluid lies. The synovial bathes the joints and tendons, lubricates the joints, absorbs impact and is like a ‘joint oil’. It also provides growth factors, provides oxygen and nutrition for the joint. And don’t forget the synovial membrane! It is a lining along the inner surface of the capsule.

stock synovialjoint SML 

There are 205 bones in the horse’s skeleton. Twenty of these bones are in each foreleg and 20 in each hind limb (4). These are connected via tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. Joints can become damaged through abnormal forces acting on normal cartilage or normal forces acting on abnormal cartilage (5).

Joint health should be a consideration for all horse owners - for performance horses, general riding horses, young growing horses and our 'oldies'. Their joints make up a large part of their general wellbeing and quality of life. 

So how can you ensure that every joint has the nutrition it needs to function optimally??

Diet and nutrition

Feeding and care for joints is vital for horses. It is essential that the base diet contains the right trace minerals, vitamins and fatty acids. Proper nutrition, from gestation and beyond, will ensure joints remain healthy for as long as possible. 

Keeping your horse at an average ideal weight means there's less impact and demand on joints. If a horse is carrying extra weight, there will be increases stress on the joints. 

Most people feeding joint supplements are used to seeing and using artificial looking white powders. That’s why McDowells created EquiFlex. It’s the best of herbal medicine and the best science available, combined in to one powerful formulation.

Best exercise for joint health

The best exercises for joint health are low-impact activities that promote range of motion, flexibility, and muscle strength without putting excessive stress on the joints. These include;

  • Walking (ridden or in-hand) - a low-impact exercise that can help to maintain joint flexibility and mobility. It's also a good warm-up exercise before more strenuous activities.
  • Trotting - for improving cardiovascular fitness and building muscle strength. It's also low-impact and can be beneficial for maintaining joint health.
  • Hill work - to improve muscle strength and joint mobility. It's a low-impact exercise that can help to strengthen the horse's back and hindquarters.
  • Pole work - to improve balance, coordination, and flexibility. It can also help to maintain joint health by encouraging the horse to move their joints through a full range of motion.

Remember to always warm up your horse before any exercise and gradually increase the intensity of the workout over time. Give your horse regular rest days and to avoid overworking them, as this can put unnecessary strain on their joints. Stretching exercises can also be helpful for maintaining joint flexibility and preventing stiffness. 


Poor confirmation can lead to pressure on the joints and impact overall biomechanics. The way a horse is built and structured can affect the forces that are placed on its joints during movement and can either help or hinder joint health over time. 

For example, horses with straighter hind limbs are more likely to suffer strain on their hocks because they are not able to absorb shock as effectively as horses with more angled hocks. Horses with straight shoulders may also experience more concussion and strain on their front legs, particularly the knee and fetlock joints.

Proper hoof care and regular trimming is important for overall equine health and can also help reduce stress on the joints.

McDowells Recommendation

Equiflex is a high potency joint formula. It is a combination of modern connective tissue supplements such as MSM and glucosamine with the added benefits of traditional herbal medicine. EquiFlex provides nourishment to joints, tendons, ligaments and cartilage. This product is natural and has a focus on the highest quality, most effective ingredients we could source.

Ingredient breakdown

MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane) has a lot of supportive research to back up claims that it reduces joint pain, and acts as an anti-inflammatory. MSM is a rich source of organic sulphur that aids in reduces muscle damage, reducing pain & stiffness, boosting immunity. It is vital for soft tissue growth and is required in the synthesis of the bones to connective tissue.

Glucosamine is used by the body to make other chemicals that build tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and the fluid that surrounds joints. Its production of GAG’s (glucosaminoglycans) in synovial fluid to enhance lubrication. 

Turmeric is able to reduce inflammation and the associated pain substantially when added to your horse’s diet alongside pepper.

Rosehips are one of the very best sources of natural Iron and Vitamin C. They also contain biotin for optimum hoof health.

Yarrow counters tissue swelling and inflammation and encourages bone marrow health. Meadowsweet has been traditional used to reduce acids in the body including around the joints. 

Equihemp contains a combination of modern connective tissue supplements such as MSM and glucosamine, with the added benefits of traditional herbal medicine. EquiFlex is designed to provide effective nourishment and nutrition to joints, tendons, ligaments and cartilage. Equihemp contains both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids with a 1:3 ratio. Fatty acids are essential for the normal functioning of a cell. 

(1) Equine Joints
(2) Plant Bioactives and Extracts as Feed Additives in Horse Nutrition 
3) Feeding Horses for Joint Health
(4) Synovial Joints and How They Work - The Horse
5) 5. McIlwraith, C.W. Osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease): An update. Proceedings of the 11th International Congress of the World Equine Veterinary Association, Guarujá-SP, Brazil. 2009. 

Have a question? Contact McDowell's Herbal Treatments

McDowell's staff Herbalists can not diagnose your disease or illness. What they can do is offer a herbal program to assist with healing, after you have had advice from your doctor or specialist. If you have unexplained pain or symptoms, seek medical advice.

EMAIL info@mcdowellsherbal.com  |  PHONE 02 6331 3937  |  INTERNATIONAL +61 2 6331 3937