Your horse’s joints are under stress, even if you can’t see the impact yet. Joint injuries and degenerative conditions like osteoarthritis can cause serious soundness problems. Sometimes they’re even career-ending. Along with smart horsemanship, supplements can help protect your horse’s joints and keep him performing his best.
Osteoarthritis, also known as Degenerative Joint Disease, is one of the most common health conditions affecting performance horses. It causes progressive and permanent deterioration of articular cartilage, the vital tissue that lines the bones within a horse’s major joints. Arthritis is most common in the hock, but other joints frequently affected include the knee, fetlock, coffin bone and pastern.
Joint supplements are an invaluable investment in keeping your horse performing his best.
Arthritis is caused by the wear and tear of daily exercise, aging, poor conformation and joint trauma. Healthy articular cartilage provides shock absorption and allows free movement. Damaged articular cartilage that hinders joint movement and shock absorption often leads to lameness.
Signs of Joint Disease
A horse with arthritis may show a variety of signs depending on the joint affected, the severity of the condition, and his workload. Horse owners usually notice problems like stiffness, shortness of stride, and uneven gaits, as well as reluctance to pick up, keep or change a lead in the canter or lope. Horses that work at speed such as jumpers, reiners and barrel horses, may become unwilling to stop or turn.
What You Can Do
Whether your horse is young and still feeling great, or you’ve started to notice signs of joint problems, joint supplements are an invaluable investment in keeping him comfortable and performing his best. Why? Research shows that the major ingredients found in oral joint supplements can promote cartilage production and slow cartilage breakdown. Some ingredients even protect joint tissues against the damaging effects of inflammation. In short, joint supplements are an insurance policy for his career and welfare that you can’t afford to pass up.
Your horse’s body already makes the nutrients needed to keep cartilage healthy, but his body can only produce a certain amount. Performance horses, injured horses or those with poor conformation have extra joint stress. Their joints don’t always have adequate nourishment to rebuild damaged tissue or fight off inflammation. Oral joint supplements are an easy, practical way to replenish your horse’s supply of these vital nutrients. Think of feeding these products as a regular oil change for your horse’s joints.
“Mother Nature’s Big Three”
If you’ve looked for a joint supplement already, you know there are many ingredients, in infinite combinations. Selecting the right joint supplement is challenging, but we can help. There are three main ingredients: Glucosamine, Chondroitin Sulfate and Hyaluronic Acid. These are what we like to call “Mother Nature’s Big Three” because they are forms of the nutrients your horse’s body already produces.
Glucosamine is the building block of Chondroitin Sulfate. Research suggests that Glucosamine supports the production of new cartilage and inhibits cartilage breakdown.
Chondroitin Sulfate stimulates the production of Hyaluronic Acid. It also inhibits the enzymes that break down cartilage and works with Glucosamine to stimulate new cartilage production and while fighting cartilage degeneration.
Hyaluronic Acid (HA) is an integral component of joint cartilage and joint fluid, which provides both lubrication and shock absorption. It also blocks inflammatory reactions.
Other Common Ingredients
MSM is a source of sulfur, a mineral critical to the formation of connective tissues like cartilage, tendons and ligaments. MSM is best known for its ability to fight inflammation, and research has shown that it protects tissues against the damaging effects of exercise and stress.
Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin and a critical antioxidant. Not only does Vitamin C protect tissues throughout the body, it’s vital in the production of all connective tissue. Aging horses and those in training often need additional Vitamin C in their diet.
Devil’s Claw and Yucca are herbs used extensively to alleviate discomfort and inflammation. Because it can stimulate the secretion of stomach acids, Devil’s Claw should be used with caution in horses at risk for ulcers or being administered NSAIDs like bute.
Choosing a Product for Your Horse
First, consider your horse’s age and workload. If he is young or in very light work, choose a joint supplement that has a few key ingredients at low to moderate levels. For horses in intense work, those recovering from injury and senior citizens, select a product with a more comprehensive panel of ingredients, at higher levels. Lastly, if your horse is a picky eater, pelleted supplements are generally the best option. For more recommendations, visit our Choosing a Joint Supplement page.
Need more information? Visit our website for handy tools like product comparison charts or call 1-877-893-8662 for a free supplement consultation with one of our experts.