There are endless products on the market that are sold as some form of joint care for your horse. So how do we know what to buy and which one is what our horses' need? Depending on your horse's age, work load and previous injuries, certain products will better suited than others.
First we must understand the biological make-up of a joint. A joint is where the ends of two bones meet inside a capsule. Each bone is covered in cartilage and inside this capsule synovial fluid is secreted which lubricates the joint during movement, reducing friction. Hyaluronic Acid (HA) is one of the two key ingredients in synovial fluid, which are responsible for its lubricating properties.
Many of us are guilty of only thinking about your horse's joint health when they are older or are showing signs of pain or arthritis. But healthy joints start with proper nutrition during the first years. Unfortunately many of of us do not have the luxury of owning our horses right from the start so we can only hope that they received the correct nutrition during their early years. No matter the age of our horses we should be ensuring that they are getting calcium, phosphorous, amino acids and vitamins to support healthy bones right throughout their adult years.
There are a number of resources that include academic studies, that provide information about exactly what you should be feeding young, growing horses and what to look out for. A very helpful chart, outlining Do's and Don'ts from https://thehorse.com/ is down below.
Feeding the Young Growing Horse for Joint Health
|Energy||Do not overfeed calories, and limit access to mare’s concentrate if necessary||Do ensure adequate calorie intake, creep feeding if necessary|
|Protein||Do not underfeed protein or essential amino acids||Do provide adequate-quality protein for essential amino acids, especially lysine, creep feeding if necessary|
Do not underfeed calcium or phosphorus.
Do not underfeed copper, especially after weaning (<10 ppm)
Do provide adequate calcium and phosphorus prior to weaning.
Do ensure the calcium-to-phosphorus ratio is between 1:5:1 and 2:1.
Do not overfeed vitamin A (>100,000 IU per day)
Do provide vitamin A only when feeding older stored hay and pasture is not available.
Do provide vitamin D only if no turnout is provided.
Performance horses are exposed to joint trauma as part of their daily wear and tear. Ongoing stress to a horse's joint can lead to excessive production of synovial fluid which in turn can lead to inflammation and pain, over time the cartilage may also begin to break down. It is therefore important to keep in mind to not over do it with your horse when it comes to jumping and other high performance activities.
Glucosamine is a naturally occurring compound within the horse's body and is found in the cartilage and surrounding fluid. Glucosmaine is used in the metabolic pathway for the production of proteoglycan which is a key component of the protective cartilage within a joint. By feeding glucosamine, we help our horse's production and maintenance of their cartilage which helps reduces friction and pain in their joints.
MSM is often found alongside glucosamine in popular joint products. It is a naturally occurring and highly absorbed form of sulfur and when a horse is deficient they may develop stiffness and reduced flexibility in their ligaments and tendons. During the winter months grass may become low in sulfur and therefore feeding MSM is an effective way of ensuring you maintain your horses' sulfur levels.
Hyaluronic Acid (HA)
HA has been shown to reduce inflammation in horse's joints however it is a relatively large compound and only a small proportion of it is absorbed by the digestive system. So it it best to look for products that have high levels of it.
Here at Summit we sell a large range of joint health products and we also sell Glucosamine and MSM by themselves. Other popular products include; Pala Mountains Bone & Joint, Grand Meadows HA Synergy, and the Cortaflex range.