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Choosing the Right Joint Supplement for Your Senior Horse

I’m trying to find a joint supplement for a senior horse. Most have similar ingredients but it seems you have to choose whether you want something with collagen, cetylated fatty acids, or hyaluronic acid. Which of these is most beneficial? Katie

Dear Katie,

Choosing a joint supplement for a senior horse can be challenging. You can make the task easier by asking yourself these questions:

1. Is my horse retired, being lightly ridden, or still actively competing in rated shows?

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If you are still showing him, you may want to avoid joint supplements that contain forbidden substances such as devil’s claw. However, if he is still being ridden but not shown, or simply standing around enjoying his retirement, many herbs have anti-inflammatory and other properties that may ease stiffness and discomfort. Cetylated fatty acids are also known for their ability to fight inflammation and discomfort so they would be a good choice for any category of older horse.

2. Does my senior horse have any stiffness or comfort issues?

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If the answer is no and you just want to put him on a joint supplement as insurance, you can probably get by with lower levels of the basics: glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate and MSM. However if he is consistently stiff or sore, he may do better on higher doses of these three ingredients plus hyaluronic acid, which has been shown to be a powerful anti-inflammatory agent in hot, painful, swollen joints. An older horse with a history of soft tissue problems in his past (such as a bowed tendon or pulled suspensory) may also need the added support of collagen and silica.

I hope this answers your questions and has been helpful to you. Much luck in your senior supplement search!

Lydia F. Gray, DVM, MA SmartPak Staff Veterinarian and Medical Director Dr. Lydia Gray has earned a Bachelor of Science in agriculture, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), and a Master of Arts focusing on interpersonal and organizational communication. After “retiring” from private practice, she put her experience and education to work as the American Association of Equine Practitioner’s first-ever Director of Owner Education. Dr. Gray continues to provide health and nutrition information to horse owners through her position at SmartPak, through publication in more than a dozen general and trade publications, and through presentations around the country. She is the very proud owner of a Trakehner named Newman that she actively competes with in dressage and combined driving. In addition to memberships in the USDF and USEF, Dr. Gray is also a member of the Illinois Dressage and Combined Training Association (IDCTA). She is a USDF “L” Program Graduate and is currently working on her Bronze Medal. Find Dr. Gray on Google+

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9 comments on “Choosing the Right Joint Supplement for Your Senior Horse
  1. Judy Bailey says:

    Do Glucosamine and Chondroitin do the same thing as Hyaluronic Acid or something different?

    • SmartPak says:

      Hi Judy, thanks for your question. Glucosamine, Chondroitin, and Hyaluronic Acid all work together to support joint health, however they each work in a slightly different way. Glucosamine is a building block of chondroitin sulfate. Current research suggests glucosamine has two beneficial actions in joints. Not only does it increase the production of new cartilage, glucosamine has also been shown to inhibit the free radicals and enzymes that break down cartilage. Chondroitin Sulfate is a building block of hyaluronic acid (HA) and also inhibits the effects of various enzymes that degrade cartilage. Research has shown that chondroitin sulfate works synergistically with glucosamine to stimulate new cartilage production and inhibit cartilage breakdown. Hyaluronic Acid,or HA, is an integral component of joint cartilage and joint fluid, providing both lubrication and shock absorption. Hyaluronic acid is what makes joint fluid “sticky.” Because it blocks inflammatory reactions, protecting cells in the joint, HA is especially useful in acute situations as well as flare-ups of chronic joint conditions. We hope this information is helpful!

  2. Brittney says:

    For a senoir horse with very stiff joints about how many mg per day of each ingredient should they recive?

  3. Jana says:

    Brittney asked: “For a senior horse with very stiff joints, about how many mg per day of each ingredient (glucosamine, chondroitin, msm) should he/she receive?” How much of each is TOO much? Thanks.

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hi Jana,

      For a senior horse, we recommend choosing a supplement that contains all of the joint essentials (glucosamine, chondrotin, MSM and HA) to provide comprehensive support. A supplement labeled for seniors typically also has higher levels of ingredients to help ease the stiffness and discomfort associated with aging, such as MSM, Devil’s Claw, Yucca, and Hyaluronic Acid. The amount each individual horse needs can vary, so we suggest choosing a supplement with good levels of all of these and giving it a try. We’ve included a link to our joint supplement comparison chart to give you a better idea of what levels are available and at what cost. In terms of what is too much, our recommendation is to stick with just one joint supplement at a time, and you’ll be well within the levels recommended. Best of luck!

  4. Shanna White says:

    Thanks for article on horse joint supplements. I’m retiring my horse and after seeing the vet he recommended a supplement to help her. Thank you!

  5. Pablo VonTrapp says:

    Our horse is getting to the age where we want to retire him. He isn’t in any pain but it’s great to hear that we should put him on some horse joint supplements as an extra precaution. Thanks!!!

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