Can you “strengthen” a joint?
People sometimes ask if there are exercises to strengthen a particular joint.
The short answer is No.
A joint is the connecting point of two bones (officially called an articulation).
The joint has fluid contained in a joint capsule, and lots of supporting fascia and other tissue.
A joint itself cannot be strengthened because it’s not made of anything that can be strengthened by exercise.
What can be strengthened is the muscles. Just not the ones you’re thinking of.
Here’s what I mean. Let me use the hock joint as an example.
If a hock joint is having ‘trouble’ of any kind, then one might think, “Let’s do cavaletti! That will strengthen the hock.”
Don’t do it!
Once the hock is having ‘trouble’ of any kind, that means that the normal compensations have been used up. That is, the horse is already overusing certain hock muscles to compensate for the ‘trouble.’
We don’t see or feel any ‘trouble’ UNTIL the compensations are used up.
The last thing the horse needs is to ‘strengthen’ the hock muscles by overtraining the already overtaxed area.
Train the opposite muscles
Like I just mentioned, with hock ‘trouble’, some hock muscles are overused. But other hock muscles are underutilized.
It can help to strengthen the less used muscles. These will then support the overtaxed muscles whenever possible.
So, in our hock example, you would take a look at your horse. If the horse has overdeveloped muscles on the inside of the leg, doing an exercise to develop the outer leg muscles would be helpful.
Obviously, as long as that exercise is comfortable for the horse.
It’s a good idea to look for symmetry on all sides of your horse’s body, to see if there are any subtle compensations at play. Then you can add exercises to balance the muscles…and that will help the joints.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that first the bones of the joint should be aligned first. That alone can correct a lot of trouble and compensations too.