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Joint Supplements and the Benefits of MSM

I am so confused about joint supplements. I have a 3 yr old in training and I want to give him supplements for maintenance while he is being ridden every day. If he develops a problem, is the MSM going to help? Is it good for them to get MSM every day? He is currently receiving a product called Max Flex XR. Is there a joint supplement that you prefer or do any of these types of supplements provide enough to really get to the joint? I want to do everything I can to keep his legs lubricated and healthy while staying away from the supplements that have ingredients that mask pain or inflammation. I think the Max Flex XR only has 100 grams of MSM. I would appreciate your thoughts.

– Barbara

Dear Barbara,
I personally think it’s a good idea to start young horses in training on oral joint supplements. If all horses had to do was stand around and eat hay, their natural repair mechanisms could probably keep up with the daily damage. But when we add weight, turns, landings, collection, etc. as well as changing footing and hoof/shoe issues, we may be overwhelming the system.

Since you specifically asked about MSM, I’ll share this article with you (actually it’s just the abstract from Pubmed). I particularly like it because a) it was performed in horses b) they specifically looked at performance horses, and c) they only measured the effects of one ingredient. If you do the math, they saw effects giving about 4 grams (4,000 mg) of MSM to an 1100 pound horse.

Marañón G, Muñoz-Escassi B, Manley W, García C, Cayado P, de la Muela MS, Olábarri B, León R, Vara E. Acta Vet Scand. 2008 Nov 7;50:45.
The effect of methyl sulphonyl methane supplementation on biomarkers of oxidative stress in sport horses following jumping exercise.


BACKGROUND: Exercise induces changes in several organs and tissues, and this process might be due to oxidative damage caused by free radicals and inflammatory mediators. Methyl Sulphonyl Methane, better known as MSM, is a naturally occurring sulphur compound with well-known antioxidant properties. On the other hand, Vitamin C is important in limiting free radical damage in the aqueous phase of the cell, and cellular vitamin C status may be linked to the mechanisms involved in quenching cellular reactive oxygen species. The aim of this study was to determine if supplementation with MSM and vitamin C could alleviate exercise-induced oxidative stress in horses undergoing jumping competition. METHODS: Twenty four jumping horses involved in competition were used. Horses were given the following three treatment diets: control (without supplementation), MSM 8 mg/kg, and combined supplements (MSM 8 mg/kg + Vit-C 5 mg/kg). EDTA blood samples were collected before exercise, upon arrived to the schooling area (control), and each week after last show. Nitric oxide, carbon monoxide, lipid hydroperoxides and the antioxidant enzymes, glutathione peroxidase, glutathione transferase and glutathione reductase, plasma levels were determined.

RESULTS: Competition induced a significant increase in lipid peroxidation, nitric oxide and carbon monoxide. By contrary, reduced glutathione as well as antioxidant enzyme activities, were decreased. MSM administration significantly ameliorated all these exercise-related changes, and this effect was potentiated by Vit C reaching values in some of the parameters similar to those found before competition.

CONCLUSION: These results suggest that jumping exercise could induce harmful effects on horses, probably due to an increase in oxidative damage and proinflammatory molecules. In addition, we have demonstrated that MSM could exert some protective effect on oxidative and inflammatory exercise-induced injury.

[Ed. note: To shop joint supplements by volume of MSM, visit our Joint Supplements Chart at where you can sort by milligrams of MSM. From the AAEP Ask a Vet]

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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6 comments on “Joint Supplements and the Benefits of MSM
  1. Susan Benson says:

    We have an 18 year old retired show jumper who had been living on one to two grams of bute a day. As an experiment we placed him on a daily regimen of MSM normal dose along with other other active competition horses. Amazingly after two weeks on the supplement he was walking, trotting and cantering 100% sound while a liberty in his paddock. He now requires no pain meds and continues to feel good. Six months later!

  2. Harriet says:

    17 yo gelding dx with low ringbone, early stage, any ideas where I can find some peer reviewed study on any of these joint supplements that might be of some benefit to his condition?

  3. Nicole says:

    Is it possible to “overdose” your horse with msm? What about the other joint supplements (glucosamine/chondroitin/HA etc)? If overdose is not an issue, then what is the level at which you are throwing money away because they can’t utilize the amount you are giving them?

  4. Mary Collins says:

    Have to be caution about supplements containing MSM if you participate in Competitive Trail competitions, at least under the auspices of the North American Trail RIde Conference (NATRC). MSM is not permitted.

  5. Jody says:

    I’ve tried many supplements on the market. The best effect I’ve had on both of my horses (with vary different issues) is with MSM. After reading this article I will be adding Rosehips to their diet to increase its effectiveness.
    Thank you!

  6. hollo says:

    MSM is excellent features and interesting.

    I have a problem with joint pain, but the MSM to relieve it.

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