Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Basics of Horse Nutrition - Joint Supplements

At some point in the horse’s life the owner may consider putting the horse on joint supplementation. Not all horses need joint supplementation but some of the one’s that could use it are: horses that have been started very young maybe before their bones, cartilage and tendon endings reached full maturity – race horses come to mind; horses that been used hard and regular for a long time; horses that have suffered some trauma or injury to their joints; and, very old horses.

In developing what I think I know about joint supplements, I have basically used three sources: horse experienced students in Ruminant or Equine management or Ag related studies at the local University; Scientists at a human nutritional supplement manufacturing company; and, personal experience from using and watching horses placed on joint supplements.

Most of the horse joint supplements on the market today will contain some of all of the following ingredients: Glucosamine, Chondroitin, Methylsulfonylmethan (MSM), Hyaluronic Acid, Vitamin C, Manganese, and Silicon. The following is a short description of each:

Glucosamine is an amino acid that the body produces naturally and is an ingredient used in the building and repair of cartilage.

Chondroitin is found in the cartilage, helpful for a healthy cartilage and is thought to help prevent or slow the deterioration of cartilage.

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is sometimes thought to be a pain reliever but most Vet’s will tell you that it is an anti-inflammatory agent.

Hyaluronic acid is thought to be related to the production or retention of the natural fluid found in the joints.

Vitamin C, Manganese, and Silicon are thought by some to provide additional nutrients necessary for optimal joint health.

So do Joint Supplements actually work? And what do all these chemicals or ingredients mean to the Horse Owner wanting to put their horse on Joint Supplements.

The short answers are: University students tell me there are virtually no independent studies on whether or not joint supplements work on horses – the key word here being independent studies. However I have been consuming pharmaceutical grade Glucosamine, combined with Vitamin C, and found a very significant reduction in pain in my knees. I have asked questions of scientists from the company that manufacture this product and they tell me that they know Glucosamine works but do not include the other common joint ingredients either because the price would be too significant or they cannot reasonable prove the other ingredients work. As far how joint supplements work on horses, I have an old roping horse, coming 27 years this spring, and who has had several injuries in the past, on joint supplements and I see a good deal improvement. More athleticism and less toe drag on his previously injured front leg.

Aside from structural damages which any supplement probably won’t affect, I believe that good quality joint supplements can give your horse a chance at healthy joints and a possible reduction of pain. This may make a horse useable again if he wasn’t previously. You should be prepared to give any test a decent length of time, such as maybe a month or more before you make a final determination if the product helps.

I have used many products on different horses over the years. The product I am now using is Corta-Flx Pellets. I use pelleted supplements rather than powder as I think there is less waste. Corta-Flx, while not technical manufactured with Glucosamine, Chondroitin, or MSM, the company uses isolates from these ingredients producing smaller molecules for better assimilation and utilization. This product also has Hyaluronic Acid.

At roughly $25 for a 40 day supply, I think it is well worth the test on your horse.

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