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Anatomy of Horse Knees and How to Properly Support Them

Last updated on February 28, 2024

Anatomy of Horse Knees and How to Properly Support Them


There is no debate that horse knees are vital to a horse’s existence and mobility. That is even more true for equine athletes of any discipline. The knee needs to be healthy, strong, and flexible to jump, run, cut, and even just walk properly. Injuries and osteoarthritis can end a horse’s career at worst, or create pain and discomfort at best. Understanding the anatomy of the horse knee is vital to support and treat them properly. Before continuing, please remember that we at Animal Element are NOT veterinarian professionals, and it’s important to consult with your horse’s vet if you have any concerns. 

The Anatomy of a Horse’s Knee

Horse knees are not as straightforward as human knees. They are composed of several small bones, called carpals, in two rows between the radius (above the joint) and splint and cannon bones (below the joint). They connect at three different areas called the radiocarpal, intercarpal, and carpometacarpal joints. All bones of the carpus (knee) joint are connected with ligaments. These ligaments work as stabilizers as well as shock absorbers when the joint is in motion. [1]

Image courtesy of Illustrated Atlas of Clinical Equine Anatomy and Common Disorders of the Horse.

Injuries can happen to the ligaments, cartilage, and tendons, as well as the bones of the joint. Even gashes on the skin over the knee can become a bigger issue if deep enough or not treated properly. According to, “Osteoarthritis of the knee is by far the most common condition affecting this region in horses, and is often secondary to other problems such as chip fractures or poor conformation.” [2] Arthritis can be caused by an injury or deformation, or just plain ol’ wear and tear and aging. It can be caused by inflammation, and also result in inflammation.

(For more information about arthritis in horses, read this blog.)

Stretches to Keep the Knee Healthy

Just like human bodies (athletes or not), regular stretching is crucial for a horse’s body to keep their flexibility and mobility up and their inflammation and pain down. Because of all the little moving parts, and their tendency for injury, horse knees need good stretching a few times a week to increase circulation and keep the joint loose. Stretching is more effective on warm muscles, so plan on doing the exercise after you warm up or exercise your horse. Spend around 10 minutes on the stretches, remembering to go slow and gentle to prevent injury. [3]


It’s a good idea to stretch all major muscle groups of the horse (neck, back, hind legs, front legs, etc.) but for the sake of this blog, we’re going to focus on ones that target the knee specifically.

  • Knee Mobilization Stretch
    • Watch this great tutorial YouTube video from equine massage therapist Jessica Limpkin. 
  • Front Leg Stretch

The Best Supplements for Horse Knees

Obviously, we are a firm believer in supplements to help your horse reach their full potential. Although a powerful joint, the knee also takes a lot of abuse, so there’s no harm in giving it all the help it can get from supplements. The market is flooded with joint supplements specifically for horse knees, so we’re going to break it down to our favorite ingredients that keep the knee joint healthy. 

  • Methylsulfonylmethane
    • A few weeks back we wrote a whole blog on MSM, because it’s THAT important! A sulfur compound, MSM maintains healthy connective tissues and reduces pain and swelling in joints. It’s a great supplement alone but also found in our Finish 1st Advanced Joint Formula.
  • Glucosamine Hydrochloride
    • It is naturally made by the body, and found in the joint cartilage. Glucosamine slows down damage to cartilage and promotes tissue regeneration. It also reduces inflammation and pain, especially in arthritic joints. Because it’s naturally bio-available, supplemented glucosamine hydrochloride is easily absorbed.
  • Hyaluronic Acid
    • Best known for lubricating joints, hyaluronic acid keeps tendons and ligaments flexible and mobile as well as working as an anti-inflammatory.
  • Cissus Quadrangularis
    • Another supplement that can be used alone, or in a joint-health combination, Cissus has been known as the “bone-setting herb” because of its ability to aid in bone fracture healing. It promotes bone and joint health and provides pain relief in the joints. Remember, there are 9 separate bones in the knee joint!

We Love Horse Knees at Animal Element!

Our supplements support equine athletes from all disciplines, and the sweet old geriatrics living out their golden years without the pressures of competition. Several Animal Element supplements support healthy knees, as well as other joints.


Foundation Daily Detox contains several of the above ingredients, so if your horse is already on it, their knees are getting great support! But if they need a bit more help, or are an especially active horse, a little extra boost is probably a good idea. Finish 1st Advanced Joint Formula has a proprietary blend of all-natural ingredients that target every requirement of joint function and assist the joint while working to improve mobility. It can help prevent injury and damage, as well as ease pain and inflammation from old injuries and/or arthritis. Both Cissus Quadrangularis and Methylsulfonylmethane can be purchased, and used, by themselves. 

One of our mottos is “If you love it, feed it Animal Element” and we stand by that! If you have any questions about our supplements, please call or text Mark Kaylor at 509-301-1798. If you have questions or concerns about the state of your horse’s knees, please contact your veterinarian team to get a diagnosis and treatment plan! 

All content is for informational purposes only. Proudly written by the team at


  1. Scott, Laurel. “What We Know About Knees,” June 10, 2022. Practical Horseman Magazine.,(see%20diagram%20on%20right)
  2. Horse Anatomy.” Mobility Health.
  3. Equine Stretching.” VIPs Vet.