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Supporting Your Horse's Joints with Supplements

Performance Horse Joint Support

Joints of horses performing at high levels are taxed heavily during competition. To ensure that we are helping our athletes to perform at their peak and enable them to have longevity in the sport, we need to aid them with preventative care and maintenance of their joints.

Many people inject their horses' joints to increase performance by easing the pain. This is an option that can provide the horse that is in pain quick relief. However, the procedure is invasive to the joint, and you run the risk of infection, which can be career-ending.

By using oral joint supplementation, you can reduce the need for injections, and may be able to prevent having to get joint injections all together. There are many supplements on the market that provide joint therapy. Ingredients that are very beneficial in preventing and managing arthritis in horses are glucosamine, MSM, hyaluronic acid, copper, zinc, manganese, and vitamin C.

Glucosamine forms the backbone of glycosaminoglycans, which are the building blocks of cartilage and other connective tissues throughout the horse's body. It is the first-limiting compound when not presence in the formation and healing of cartilage. Glucosamine has been showed in numerous studies to benefit arthritic horses. After 8 weeks of supplementing with 5000 mg of glucosamine, arthritic horses had increased joint motion and stride length. Increased motion and stride length indicate that the horses had less inflammation in their joints, which would allow the horses to perform at a higher level, and with less pain, than the arthritic horses that weren't supplemented.

  • Glucosamine has also shown to aid in the prevention of cartilage degradation. This is very important for young horses that are receiving rigorous training. By preventing the breakdown of cartilage, your horse should be able to perform at a high level for a longer period of time.
  • Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is a sulfur-containing compound that is found in fresh forages. However, MSM is very volatile and oxidizes quickly when forage is put up into hay. Therefore, providing your horse with 5000 mg of MSM supplementation will ensure that your horse is benefiting. MSM plays a role in the antioxidant function and connective tissue health. Sulfur from MSM is involved in the integrity of collagen, cartilage, and joint fluid. It is crucial in the formation of cross-bridges between collagen molecules, which add strength and stability to the structure of collagen-rich tendons, ligaments, joint tissues, and connective tissue.
  • Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a member of glycoaminoglycans that is found in healthy joint fluid and cartilage. HA gives viscosity to joint fluids, and suppleness to cartilage. In inflamed joints, HA breaks down and the joint fluid becomes more watery, making the joint less lubricated. In the cartilage, HA forms a complex with aggrecan (another glycosaminoglycan) that keeps the cartilage flexible and resistant to being overly compressed. Studies show that horses who receive 100 mg of hyaluronic acid each day have less joint swelling and fewer examinations by veterinarians due to lameness.

In addition, copper, zinc, manganese, and vitamin C aid in maintaining joint health.

  • Copper is required for the production of normal connective tissues, which include tendons and ligaments, and the framework of bones and cartilage lining of the joints.
  • Zinc functions as an antioxidant that helps to remove free radicals that damage tissues and cause inflammation.
  • Manganese is essential in the production of the body's ability to produce chondroitin sulfate, which maintains normal joint cartilage and repairing cartilage.
  • Vitamin C also functions as an antioxidant that protects tissues and is necessary for collagen formation.

show jumper

When considering a joint supplement for your horse, and to ensure that your horse is receiving the best joint support possible look at the ingredients list. Make sure that the joint supplement has glucosamine, MSM, and hyaluronic acid. Providing your horse a complete vitamin and mineral supplement will ensure they are receiving copper, zinc, manganese, and vitamin C. By providing your performance horse joint support, and a complete vitamin and mineral supplement you are not only increasing your horse's ability to perform, it will also help to ensure that you have a happy, healthy horse and have years of competition to come. Kelsey J. Nonella, Ph.D., P.A.S. Equine Nutritionist Horse Guard, Inc.

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