Understanding Equine Joint Supplements

In the world of joint supplements, there are so many options it can be overwhelming to decide which one might work best for your horse! Joint supplements naturally support your horse’s joints against normal wear and tear that happens with activity, age, and breed. Just  like people, individual horses with similar conditions may respond differently to the same product and doses.

Horses are built for movement, but their size puts strain and pressure on the joints, which can lead to degeneration quicker than you realize. By the time your horse starts to show soreness, they may have been uncomfortable for a while. Joint supplements are great to use as preventative maintenance. They help by keeping joints lubricated to support shock absorption, block inflammatory reactions, prevent cartilage breakdown, and aid in new cartilage growth.

What Ingredient Should You Look For?

Equine joint supplements have been around for a long time with a variety of options. The best way to select one is by looking at the ingredients list. The most common ingredients in joint supplements are Glucosamine, Chondroitin Sulfate, MSM, Hyaluronic Acid, and Collagen Type II. By understanding what the ingredients are and their importance, that will help you make an educated decision on what may be the best option for your horse!

Glucosamine

Glucosamine is one of the most common and well-studied ingredients in joint supplements. Glucosamine is the building block of all connective tissue and cartilage. When looking for glucosamine in supplements, it is best to stick with either the manufactured pure glucosamine or natural shellfish sources. Recommended doses of glucosamine range from 6,000 to 10,000 mg/day with the max dose being for a horse that is in heavy work.

Chondroitin Sulfate

Chondroitin Sulfate works with Glucosamine to support healthy joints and promotes new cartilage growth while limiting cartilage breakdown. Chondroitin Sulfate helps with inflammation and is a key component in the body’s ability to produce hyaluronic acid. The pain-relieving effects are not as obvious as glucosamine, but it does help with cartilage breakdown. An effective dose is between 1,250 and 5,000 mg/day.

Glucosamine is shown to work synergistically with Chondroitin Sulfate, which is why you will often see them together in joint supplements. Studies have shown that these two ingredients seem to work better together than they do separately. The main thing to watch for is when these two ingredients are together in one product, they may contain lower dosages than the recommended amounts. There are no studies out there that confirm they are effective in the lower doses so I would recommend still using a supplement with the correct dose of Glucosamine and finding one that has close to the correct amount of Chondroitin. These are the two most popular joint supplements for a reason … they work great together and target each aspect of the joint.

Methylsulfonylmethane

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is a source of organic sulfur that acts as an anti-inflammatory. The amounts needed may vary which is why they recommend adding pure MSM product to your horse’s supplements and trying different amounts to see what may be effective.

Hylauronic Acid

Hyaluronic Acid helps with lubrication and viscosity of the joint fluid. Dosage recommendations are 100 mg per day. Studies have shown that as little as 20 mg of Hyaluronic Acid added to Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate supplements may make a difference. But in other horses, they may need the full 100 mg dose. If your horse has not responded to the Glucosamine or Chondroitin sulfate, Hyaluronic Acid is a great next step to try with them.

Collagen Type II

Collagen Type II is the primary structural protein in connective tissue found in tendons, ligaments, bone cartilage, and skin. It represents 95% of the collage found in articular cartilage tissue.

Other Options

These are the main ingredients to look for when trying to find the best joint supplement for your horse. Other ingredients that aid in joint health are Avocado and Soy Unsaponifiable (ASU), Omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamin C, and Cetyl-M just to name a few.

With all of the joint supplements on the market, it is beneficial to know what you are looking at so you do not feel overwhelmed. As with any supplement, it may be beneficial to run bloodwork on your horse to make sure you are not over supplementing, which could cause more harm than good to your horse. Always remember, when giving your horse a joint supplement, make sure they are maintaining appropriate weight, have a balanced nutrition, regular hoof care, and regular exercise- these will aid in maintaining joint health as well.

It is important to buy from a reputable company and select a supplement formulated specifically for joint health to have the maximum effect. Supplements do take time to show results, give at least 30 days before determining if the supplement works best for your horse.

Below you will find a helpful comparison chart highlighting the top ingredients in joint supplements:

IngredientSourceEffectsDaily Dosage
GlucosamineBuilding block of all connective tissue and cartilageEncourages healing, growth, and slows cartilage breakdown6,000-10,000 mg
Chondroitin SulfateNatural building block of cartilage, bone, and tough connective tissues; also aids in production of hyaluronic acid  Primarily functions to prevent further cartilaginous breakdown1,250- 5,000 mg
MSMFound in the immune system and connective tissueEffective anti-inflammatoryVaries depending on horse
Hyaluronic AcidVital component of synovial fluid and cartilageControls swelling, heat, and pain; very effective in acute flare-ups20 – 100 mg
Collagen Type IIPrimary structural protein in connective tissues and found in tendons, ligaments, bone cartilage, and skinProvides lubrication, strength and stimulates growth of articular cartilage480 mg
Avocado Soy Unsaponifiable (ASU)Found in avocado and soybean oilsProtects against cartilaginous breakdown but not known to reduce pain; helps reduce inflammation1,200 mg
Omega-3 Fatty AcidsFound mainly in plant oils and fishHelps reduce inflammation6.75- 25 g
Cetyl-M (Cetyl Myristoleate)Found in fish oils, dairy products, butter, and animal fatHelps reduce inflammation5,500 mg
Vitamin CEssential for health of cartilage and other connective tissueMay help with oxidative stress induced by exerciseDo not exceed 4,000 mg/day

Written by Customer Service Representative, Erica

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