Explanation of the benefits of the 6 most popular equine joint supplements
Why use joint supplements?
Joint mobility can vary according to the breed and age of a horse. Therefore, there are a variety of supplements available containing naturally occurring substances formulated to help with cartilage production, mobility and flexibility of horses.
Glucosamine helps keep joints and cartilage lubricated. It also stimulates glycosaminoglycans, (the substance necessary for the formation of joint tissue.) 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 with a diminished ability to act as a shock absorber. The joints then become stiff and painful, resulting in a limited range of motion and even deformation.
Glucosamine Sulphate is a combination of sulphur salts (40%) and Glucosamine. Glucosamine HCL is a purified version containing 98% pure, active glucosamine. Sulphur works well with other components to enhance joint support.
Chondroitin sulphate works to enhance glucosamine. Chondroitin sulphate is a major part of cartilage and may support bones as they heal.
It provides structure, holds water and nutrients, and allows other molecules to move through the cartilage. This is extremely important, as there is no blood supply to cartilage.
In degenerative joint disease, such as osteoarthritis, there is a loss of chondroitin sulphate as the cartilage erodes. It’s important to remember that when administered as a supplement, the rate of absorption results for chondroitin sulphate can be low as it is a large molecule.
Sodium Hyaluronic Acid (HA)
Its structure is the simplest of all glycosaminoglycans and forms the backbone of proteoglycans (a form of protein.) It is found in the connective tissue and created in the synovial membrane by the chondrocytes (the only cells in cartilage.) It is essential for proper nutrient delivery.
Sodium Hyaluronate, has a very large molecular structure (even larger than chondroitin) which leads to extremely poor oral absorption. This means the dosage levels of HA products can be far too low to provide the body with the support it needs.
Methylsulphonylmethane (MSM) is a naturally occurring organic sulphur found in grains and grasses. The concentration of organic sulphur should be high, especially in older horses or ponies undertaking strenuous or intense training programmes. MSM is necessary for the correct synthesis of amino acids, vitamins and chondroitin sulphates. These are essential nutrients that help support joint lubrication. MSM also supplies bio-available sulphur to various types of tissues within the body.
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 lack MSM.
Shark Cartilage and Green-Lipped Mussel
Perna Mussel, Shark Cartilage and other cartilage extracts contain a mixture of glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) and can vary in purity
Shark Cartilage is used in joint supplements due to the presence of chondroitin sulphate.
Perna canaliculus (green-lipped mussel) is an edible shellfish found off the shores of New Zealand. Green lipped Mussel is often used as a joint supplement. It contains:
- GAGs are the main components of both cartilage and the synovial fluid found in joints. They increase the lubrication of the joints as well as the water uptake into the cartilage. This water uptake, which decreases with age, is necessary for the lubrication and shock absorption of the joints.
- 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 reduce joint pain.
Joint & mobility supplements
There are many equine joint supplements available which contain some or all of the above ingredients. Always check with your veterinarian, who can advise the most suitable product for your horse’s needs.