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Explanation of the benefits of the 6 most popular equine joint supplements

Why use joint supplements?

Joint mobility can vary in all breeds and all ages of horses and ponies and is a continual concern to horse owners. Many supplements are available that contain substances that naturally occur within the horse’s body, especially those which aid in cartilage production and can help to improve the mobility and flexibility of horses who are suffering with limited mobility.


Glucosamine helps keep joints and cartilage lubricated, as well as stimulating the substances necessary for the formation of joint tissue, called glycosaminoglycans, key structural components of the cartilage that lines the joints. This is important because as a horse’s body ages or is subjected to punishing riding disciplines, it may not produce a sufficient amount of glucosamine naturally. This can result in cartilage that loses its ability to act as a shock absorber in the joints. The joints then become stiff and painful, resulting in a limited range of motion and even deformation.

Glucosamine Sulfate is a combination of sulfur salts (40%) and Glucosamine. Glucosamine HCL is a purified version containing 98% pure, active glucosamine. Sulfur is a vital part of the synergistic approach to joint support.

Green lipped mussel is often used as a joint supplement. Glucosamine, GAGs (unbranched chains of complex sugars) and ETAs (a type of Omega-3 fatty acids) are the compounds in the mussel believed to contribute to its beneficial effects. ETAs are the key ingredients that help in the anti-inflammatory activity and thereby the reduction of joint pain. GAGs are the main components of cartilage and the synovial fluid found in joints which increase the lubrication of the joint and increase water uptake into the cartilage. This water uptake, which decreases with age, is necessary for the lubrication and shock absorption of the joints.


Chondroitin Sulfate works in conjunction with glucosamine to improve its effect. Chondroitin sulfate is a major constituent of cartilage, providing structure, holding water and nutrients, and allowing other molecules to move through cartilage which is an important property, as there is no blood supply to cartilage.

In degenerative joint disease, such as osteoarthritis, there is a loss of chondroitin sulfate as the cartilage erodes. Chondroitin sulfate may support healing of bone, which is consistent with the fact that the majority of glycosaminoglycans found in bone consist of chondroitin sulfate, however, when administered as a supplement, the rate of absorption results for chondroitin sulfate are less than favorable due to its molecular size.

Sodium Hyaluronic Acid (HA)

Its structure is the simplest of all glycosaminoglycans and forms the backbone of proteoglycans. Hyaluronic acid is found in connective tissue and manufactured in the synovial membrane and by the chondrocytes. As a major component of synovial fluid it is also essential for proper nutrient delivery.

Sodium Hyaluronate, has a very large molecular structure (even larger than chondroitin)  which leads to extremely poor oral absorption, therefore, the dosage levels on these HA products are far too low to provide the body with support to cartilage that is needed for healthy joint function.


Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is naturally occurring organic sulphur that is found in grains and grasses. Organic sulphur is vital and concentrations within the body should be high, especially in older animals or horses and ponies undertaking strenuous or intense training programmes. MSM is necessary for the correct synthesis of amino acids, vitamins and chondroitin sulphates which are responsible for supporting joint lubrication. MSM also supplies bio available sulphur to various types of tissues within the body including: connective tissue, and the tissue needed to support healthy lungs, bone, blood, tendons, hooves and skin. Unfortunately MSM is destroyed by heating, long term storage, exposure to air, and during the feed manufacturing process. This can mean that horses and ponies who have limited access to grazing, or whose diet relies heavily on processed feeds, may be deficient in this vital compound.

Shark Cartilage and Green-lipped Mussels

Perna Mussel, Shark Cartilage and other cartilage extracts contain a mixture of glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) and can vary in purity; however, they are not absorbed well.

Shark cartilage is used in joint supplements due to the presence of chondroitin sulfate found in shark cartilage. Perna canaliculus (green-lipped mussel) is an edible shellfish found off the shores of New Zealand. Perna mussel contains glucosamine, a GAG precursor and one of the building blocks of cartilage.

Joint & mobility supplements

There are many joint supplements available which contain some or all of the above ingredients. Always check with your veterinarians, who can advice the most suitable product for your horses needs.

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