Clicking Joints in Horses

In Health by HorseMom Mary25 Comments

Hello Horse Moms,

I wanted to share with all of you a recent problem I had with my horse Penny during training.

Every time she runs, sometimes every time she moves her Joints Click… And they CLICK LOUD!

I’m hoping this post will provide other horse moms with the facts concerning this issue and the solutions to help this weird and quite frankly frightening clicking noise I keep hearing.


Sometimes when she’s in the round pen it’s so loud you can hear it across the arena. 🙁

So let me start by giving you some background info about my horse Penny.

Penny - My big girl

Penny – My big girl

Penny is half Rocky mountain and half American Belgian draft. She’s a big girl with a thick neck and big butt.

She’s six years old but can act like a two-year-old when she doesn’t get her way.

Not mean spirited but curious…my natural horsemanship trainer Kevin Clark says she is a pushy extrovert. Meaning she always wants to know whats going on and if you don’t keep her busy she’s going to do what she wants to do.

Kevin says that is a good personality in horse…it makes it easier to train a horse like her because they are always looking for the next thing to do.

She’s been in training since March and doing well. (Progressing a lot faster than me so I’m trying to catch up to her right now.)

I’m slower because of an injury to my hamstring that required surgery this past October. Yes it was PENNY related)


Kevin Clark Ct horse trainer n Mary

The injury was due to me working with Penny and my confidence has been non existent so Kevin started training her while I watched. It took a couple of months before I was ready to get in the ring with her again but with Kevin Clarke’s help I have accomplished that goal and hope to be riding again soon.

This past week during training Penny has been having a clicking noise coming from her body. Kevin was the first to notice the noise and tried to pinpoint it by examining her and moving her in different directions to try to find where the clicking was coming from. He felt strongly that it was coming from her front end.

He said she wasn’t lame
and she showed no other physical problems

So being a passionate horse mom I immediately went on the internet to find out as much as possible about clicking joints in horses. I read many different posts discussing:

  • what the clicking noise meant
  • what the possible causes are and
  • how to help it

There were many different answers and solutions on forums concerning clicking joints. This also held true with vets because they had varying opinions too.

The most information I found about clicking joints was surprising not in equine articles but in human articles.

The information I found helpful to help my horse Penny is next:

Is cracking and popping of joints normal?

It is usually normal and most of the time nothing to be too concerned about. The exact reason joints pop or crack is not entirely understood. A few theories as to why the clicking happens is:

  • by bony parts of a joint rubbing against each other
  • a tendon snapping over or around a joint
  • or a ligament getting tight rapidly when the joint is moving and clicking back into place
  • One more theory is that nitrogen bubbles in the joint fluid are rapidly brought into or out of solution when the joint is manipulated.

What causes these clicking noises?

It can be related to immaturity, lack of conditioning, sometimes size or arthritic changes in the joint in older or high performance horses.

Do these noises need to be treated?

The recommendation of vets are:

“if there is no cartilage damage, lameness or inflammation, it is recommended to give your horse lots of turnout, conditioning and steady regular work. Any lameness should be checked out, but the noises themselves almost never correlate with injury. Most horses grow out of it, but many continue to click their entire lives.”

I didn’t read that too many vets were  recommending joint supplements to help with this problem. But when I went on forums there was a lot of recommendations for different joint supplements.

When should you worry about the  clicking and popping of a joint?

Doctors and vets agreed that the time to worry is if there is pain, swelling, lameness and lack of function of the joint.

So now that I found all this information concerning clicking joints in horses from vets and doctors….

I now have to decide what I should  if anything to help my horse Penny.  So I decided to be proactive to keep her healthy and well. I have a good starting place because I know she doesn’t have any swelling, pain or lameness going on after Kevin did a thorough job examining all four legs from the hoof to the shoulder and hip.

So my plan is too to give her joints extra support by giving her an organic plant supplement that is loaded with silicon to help keep her joints lubricated and working freely and use boots in the front for support when exercising and riding her.

I keyed in on the nutrient silicon because of the studies that have done promoting its benefits to keeping joints healthy.

Silicon can be found in many different substances but not all silicon can be utilized and absorbed readily in the digestive system of animals. What they found was that organosilicates a biologically form of silicon could be absorbed and utilized as essential constituents of connective tissue.

This would contribute to the integrity and stability of the aerial wall. This is the type of silicon I decided to give Penny.

In the research it named different natural sources of this type of silicon one being alfalfa  having more silicon than chondroitin-4-sulphate. Alfalfa had 12,740 p.p.m. of dry weight and chondroitin-4-sulphate had 1,115 p.p.m. of dry weight. So I decided to use alfalfa as the ingredient to supply Penny with the natural silicon to help her joints.

The next thing I had to do was find out how much she needed per day to be helpful.

I looked in the National Research Councils Nutrient Requirements of horses 2007 guidelines and independent studies done with horses and the amount I could find was 150 mg a day. But I also knew of a supplement company that uses a liquid silicon just for bones and joints and they recommended 375 mg to 750 mg a day of silicon.

So I’m going to start on the high side and give Penny 750 mg a day using organic alfalfa powder to start and see if it helps the clicking. That means I would give her 59.5 g of organic alfalfa powder to get 755.65 mg of silicon.

I’ll post update next week to let you all know if it has helped yet at her next training session.

If you want to add any info or ask question please jump right in, I would be glad to hear from you.


Horse Mom Mary

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  1. img-6

    It's so nice to hear that others have this problem. I have a 6 yo QH gelding, grandma was a thouroughbred, and he is shaped more like a TB. His joints click and I have spent alot of money trying to figure out why. Best the vet could say was that he grew really fast in a short amount of time (which he did). No injuries or lameness. Have tried several different supplements, some have worked for a few weeks, then the clicks are back. In cold (Colorado) weather, the clicks are less severe. The closer it gets to warm weather, the louder the clicks get. He has no problem cutting corners and loves jumping. He's very healthly overall, just the clicks. Please let me know how the silicon works.


    1. img-7

      Thanks so much for this.

      My 5 year old has just started clicking all of a sudden and I’ve been in a total frenzy all fsy yesterday and today untill.ive just found your post. Hes not lame or showing any discomfort, still a total bolshy boy lol. Xx

  2. img-8

    This was very helpful I’m looking to buy a horse and the clicking is the only thing I found and was a little concerned about it,so this will help in my decision.Thank-you for the info. Cammy

    1. img-9 Author

      Hi Cammy- I just posted a comment on here that might also be helpful for you. If you have any questions please just give me a shout! I’m happy to help.

      Here’s to keeping our horses safe!


  3. img-10

    Hello there, this post has been extremely helpful. I have just bought an 8yr old gelding and he has a clicking sound coming from his off hind, no lameness or any signs of discomfort, just clicking! Please do let us know how you got on with silicon as I would very much like to give it a go. Thank you in advance


    1. img-11 Author

      Hi Jessie- sorry for the late reply. I’m still trying to figure out this techy stuff and now that I think I’ve got my arms around it I just found your post. Sorry for that 🙁

      My horse Penny had something similar with the “clicking sound”. We didn’t use silicon we used a natural silica found in cleavers (cleavers also works on your horses lymphatic system to cleanse impurities from their body) and alfalfa. We also used meadow-sweet and celery seed which neutralizes the acidic environment in the joint capsule.

      Plus rosemary and nettle to stimulate the circulation and hawthorn to open up the veins so things can move through more easily (vaso-dialator). Can’t forget burdock and dandelion root to remove waste from the joints.

      Some of these also act as an anti-inflammatory (rosemary and meadow-sweet).

      We kept Penny out of her stall and gave her lite exercise that helped everything keep moving. That was really important!

      I know it sounds like a lot of “stuff” but it’s all natural and it worked for her like a charm.

      But just like you I was worried to. My girl is a big girl and carries a lot weight,so I wanted to make sure she wasn’t hurting herself. I wanted to keep her well 🙂

      It turned out great. She’s the one on the picture with me over here

      One more thing…. We are going to be adding more info to the horsemoms site and we just added a resource page over at that might be helpful for you too.

      If you want to talk more let’s plan a phone conversation. I’d love to hear how things are going.

  4. img-12

    hello my daughters horse is 15 he clicks really badly. weve had him for 5 months now, hes turned out at least 7 hours a day, if I leave him too long out he gets moody and constantly walks up and down. im giving him cider vinegar but it doesn’t seem to help, hes cracking when walking up and down. there is so many things on the market. what do I try next.
    thanks lindsey

  5. img-13

    My horse Harry has clicked all his life – he is now 17 and the clicking has turned to a creaking and it’s REALLY loud but he’s not lame. I have had him on devil’s claw root because he’s a little arthritic and tumeric and some Glucosamine powders but it’s getting worse. Anyone else had this and successfully eases it?

  6. img-14

    Ever since one trailer ride last year, my mare has had some clicking in her front right knee. Bizarre. She has no swelling or lameness. Now the clicking is pretty much all the time. I have done research and came up with a couple of products such as equine leg magic and Regenerex. But now I have read this post, and shall try the organic alfalfa powder. She is either 12 years old. Unfortunately, last year I lost vision in my right eye, and had surgery which kept me from working and riding my horses. She was not as conditioned last year as she normally is from regular trail riding. This eyar, we are doing a lot of ground work. I do not want to ride her until the clicking is either resolved or figured out. I want to make sure that I will not damage her leg from riding and putting additional weight on her.

  7. img-15

    Yes i have a 14yr old gelding horse and she was up and got tangled up in a rope afterwards i heard a clickingin her hind legs never did that befor .doesn’t seem to be hurt still walking on it ok .but still got me a little worried. Ive been reading all the post ,but nothing after a injury. So any impute would be greatly appreciated. Thanks worried horse owner

    1. img-16

      Hi Rodney – 1st step is have a vet assess the damage to see if there’s any injury. That would be my priority. Let me know how it goes.

  8. img-17

    Hi, I have a 20 month old American Mammoth donkey who has started clicking very loudly from his shoulder and smaller clicks to front fetlock joints, he is not lame at all. He has grown a great deal in the last year and I have become very worried about the clicking, I show him but I feel he will be knocked back by the judges when they hear it. if anyone has any information about donkeys with clicking joints I would be very grateful.

  9. img-18

    I have a 5 year old Andalusian that I bought about 4 weeks ago, who was under-conditioned significantly. We mostly worked him on a lunge line, took him out for about 1/2 and hour to an hour walking, and a little trotting and the clicking we noticed about 2 weeks into his training.
    Then about 10 days ago, we noticed the clicking but he seemed fine. Then about 5 days ago, he started limping a little and struggling on the left side when I would try and canter (bc his right front he couldn’t lift off from). So, now, we are doing a short term bute and complete rest. Maybe I started him too fast? He’s big in the front and quite under developed in his butt. Any suggestions welcome. He eats well, great attitude, some hay some alfalfa, in a stall but turned out 2x a day.

    1. img-19

      Hi Sara, The problem could have been brought on by working him too fast causing some form of degenerative joint condition.
      The main joints affected are hock, fetlock, knee, pastern and shoulder.

      All these conditions begin with a the breakdown of joint cartilage and inflammation of the soft tissue, followed by changes in the underlying bone, which results in pain, reluctance to flex the affected joint, selling and lameness.

      I would have a vet check him out as soon as possible so you know if you are dealing with a degenerative joint disease and to determine the extent of the condition, the source of pain and if necessary take X-rays to assess any changes taking place in the joint.

      There are two kinds of treatment for this:
      1. Conventional treatment usually consists of using anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs, along with steady work to accelerate the degenerative changes an speed up the fusion or stabilization of the joints.
      2. Alternatively long periods of rest can be tried to allow the soft tissue inflammation to subside, although the lameness and inflammation generally re-occur when exercise is renewed.
      That is why it is important to have your vet determine what kind of injury your horse sustained.

      It is important to ensure good circulation and keep the joint moving (walking on flat surfaces) if cartilage is to receive nutrition, further degeneration of the bone is to be avoided and mobility is to be retained.

      Herbs with cleansing, stimulatory, diuretic and anti-inflammatory action, often have helped this condition.

      – Kelp, nettle, cleavers, celery seed (Blood purifiers that will gently cleanse and restore proper function of the horse’s body)
      – Meadowsweet and Devil’s claw (Anti-inflammatories which support the body in its natural action reduce inflammation)
      – Hawthorn (strengthen the walls for the blood vessels and improve blood supply to the joints)
      – Celery seed (with its volatile oil improves joint suppleness)
      – Nettle and rosemary (Circulatory herbs will cleanse the toxins by increasing blood flow to the affected area)
      – Nettle and celery seed (Diuretic herbs to support the kidneys in their action to eliminate body waste, toxins and the waste products of inflammation)
      – Milk thistle, dandelion root and meadowsweet (Hepatic herbs to support the liver in its work of cleansing and eliminating the waste and toxins which cause the inflammation)
      – Cleavers (Lymphatic herbs will help the action of the lymphatic system in its role of tissue cleansing)
      – Meadowsweet and celery seed (help to neutralize the acidic environment in the joint capsule)
      – Rosehips and nettle (rich in vitamin C important joint health)

      As you can see a mixture of herbs will work better than just a few single herbs because they have different jobs and work together to help the whole body help the affected area.

      We do have a supplement called “Fluidity” for joint problems.
      You can see the information about the supplement using this link

      For external use to help the inflammation, you can use essential oils like lavender, chamomile and rosemary diluted with a carrier oil with no additives (walnut, sweet almond or sunflower) which can be massaged directly onto the affected area. Start off with 1-2 times a day and see how your horse does.
      For a basic massage oil; 10-12 drops of essential oil to each 30 ml of carrier oil.
      Measure the essential oil into a bottle (brown bottles keep the oil better), add the carrier oil and shake gently to mix.

      You can also use essential oils in a hot or cold compress: sprinkle 2-4 drops of essential oil onto each 1 pint of water used and give a quick mix a round. Don’t use too much water or you can run the risk of wasting the oil.
      Fold a clean piece of material (linen, towel) into a least four thicknesses, dip into the water, remove and squeeze gently to wring out excess water. Use as quickly as possible.

      A warm compress of rosemary and thyme can be used as well. soak the compress in the infusion and apply as hot as possible (but not too hot) then bandage in place and repeat every 4 hours.

      I hope this information helps.
      If you have any further questions please let me know.
      (john is posting this for me)

  10. img-20

    These comments have been very helpful to me. My paso fino mare has a click in her left knee. Clicking use to not be there and vet advises joint supplements. Helps some what but has not gone away. Will try these suggestions. I felt like I was the only person in the world with a clicking horse. None of my friends with horses have ever heard of this. Thanks again for advice!?

  11. img-21

    My 20+ quarter horse mare came up lame we pulled her shoe. No abcess. We noticed that her joints are cracking. Any suggestions?

  12. img-22

    One of my paso fino mares has started clicking also. I believe it’s coming from the knees in front but not sure. Didn’t notice it before so it’s just started recently. Was looking for answers and found this site. Good ideas here and will definitely try some! Good luck to all.

  13. img-23

    I just rescued a horse that this is happening to. This also happened to me last Winter after taking taking and having a reaction to a anti-biotic in the Cipro family.
    (never take those drugs, ever) My joints were cracking 400 plus times a day, I thought my joints were disintegrating. I went to a specialist, he said it was the tendons snapping over the bones because they were tight and gave me muscle relaxers. It has been 6 months now and they only snap a dozen or so times a day.
    I just thought I would share.
    Please let me know how you made out with the supplements- and was your horse on any type of anti- biotic before this began?

  14. img-24

    Hi, I have a haflinger and she is 20, I’ve always heard her hind crack/pop when walking and trotting but never cantering, she is always sound and never favors it so I just hope for the best! I keep her in a stall at night and all day she is out in pasture. Any suggestions to keep her joints nice and young are widly appreciated!

  15. img-25

    I have a 2 yr old horse that has a loud noise that sounds like it is wearing shoes on a hard surface. Its coming from 1 back leg . He is not lame. Does the clicking on your horses in the articles sound like they are wearing shoes on a hard surface or some thing else?

  16. img-27

    I have a 2 yr old mini who started to click both right and left in the back knees. He is not in pain but i feel so bad for him. Is there anything I can do? My vet suggested walking backwards up a hill to build his muscles but said it will never go away.

  17. img-29

    My horse was recently came up lame on the left side, I had him blocked, also X Rays, nothing stood out as an issue, a little arthritis
    he is 11 so I don’t find that alarming. Stifle or soft tissue issue are the present diagnosis and stall rest. Next step would be Ultra Sound…He has been on stall rest for 6 weeks, I am not comfortable with leaving a horse in this long I fear it is not natural. He is stalled each night, in a gravel paddock most of the day and 3 hours in grass pasture for 2-4 hours per day. Am I really damaging him by letting him out and walking around apposed to having him stand in a stall for 3-4 months?

  18. img-30

    Sharon…. Forgot to mention … now that he is out of the stall and walking around I have been hearing the clicking coming from his hind quarters. When I saw your clicking comments thought I would drop in my concerns and see if the lack of his exercise may
    be contributing to this clicking. Prior to his injury he was ridden almost daily, low level dressage, cross country jumping and ring work..Worked hard during the summer on the hard surface, think this may have contributed to his lameness on the Left side.

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