I wanted to put together a post with the best horse joint supplement reviews so that you would be able to buy your supplements in a more informed way so your horse can look and feel like Spirit here for as long as possible!
This is what most people do before they actually find something that works and it costs an arm and a leg. Maybe you’ve already gone through some of this process?
Because then you know that it’s super annoying.
Also, I got a comment on my last post on how to choose horse joint supplements asking what supplements I would recommend.
So I figured I would recommend and review some of the ones I like best on the market based on your specific horse needs.
I don’t just go through every possible type of compound and give you a brand to buy because let’s be honest – you don’t need most of what’s out there and there’s plenty of sites that can do that for you if you like. Instead, I’ve tried to breakdown your specific situation and present you with several options that I think would be best for you and why.
Supplement companies can be super annoying
First, let me say that the thing that annoys me the MOST about these supplements is that some of them 1) don’t even tell you what’s in them and 2) don’t have any actual research backing up the claims that their making. This makes it difficult to trust what they’re actually saying.
Like sure, a product may have a bunch of testimonials, but you can pay people to give you testimonials. It’s not ethical and it’s not pretty but people do it! So I prefer concrete research.
But sometimes these companies have the good products…
The only problem with choosing only supplements with concrete research is that sometimes the ones that won’t display any of their information are, in fact, better. And obviously you want the best for your horse.
Plus, some companies aren’t actually sketchy or anything, they just don’t like publishing their results so they can keep charging a premium for a formulation others could imitate and sell for less. So what do you do? Well there isn’t any perfect answer. But I’ve tried to break everything down for you below.
First thing’s first – get familiar with your horse
When you’re buying a supplement, you should be familiar with the steps that I outlined in my last post. In order to do this, you need to be familiar with your horse. So get the following information:
- How much of the supplements that I previously outlined is your horse already consuming through their diet? Either through their daily diet, grazing, treats, vet treatments or other supplements that they are already taking.
- Categorize your horse’s current activity level as either: mild, moderate or high. In other words, how much stress is being being put on your horse’s joints?
- Categorize your horse’s future activity level as either: mild, moderate or high. So how much stress is going to be put on your horse’s joints in the foreseeable future?
The numbers don’t need to be perfect
Now don’t stress too much about getting all the numbers perfect. You just want an approximation. If you’ve read things about how awful it is to overdose your horse on nutraceuticals, none of it is based on any actual science.
I’ve heard of horses getting into their tubs of supplements and eating 30 days worth of pills by accident. And guess what? Nothing happened! Extras tend to just pass right through the digestive system and get pooped out. So relax!
Only worry about the minerals
The only thing I would be at all concerned about are minerals – like the manganese, copper and zinc. However, these aren’t contained in most of the supplements below and should only be given in extra if you are sure your horse is deficient. Otherwise, the effects are redundant and the research is sparse.
Once you’ve gotten an idea of the numbers, keep them in mind so you can reject a supplement, for example, if you know it has much more of something than your horse needs. So if I recommend it below and you know your it will double or triple the daily dose of something your horse should be getting, then ignore it and opt for an alternative. Things like that will just be redundant for your horse, cost you extra and most likely won’t add any effect.
Remember the key notes from my last post
- Glucosamine and chondroitin work significantly better when given together than separately, meaning that the effect when they are together is greater than the additive effect of each of them given alone
- Collagen II, PSGAGs and glucosamine are the only supplements that have shown evidence of promote regeneration rather than simply prevention of further damage (Note that Collagen II is by far the best but is hard to find although PSGAGs are even harder to find)
- ASUs are great for long term preventative care so start your horse on these early if you are planning on doing a lot of strenuous activity with them
The best horse joint supplement reviews…
For lightly worked horses
If you know your horse is and will be worked lightly or intermittently, then you have two options. One you can put your horse on a mild supplement or you can elect not to put your horse on anything. I know there is a lot of hype about oral supplements right now and I do agree that if your horse needs them, then they are definitely better than injections, regulated drugs or other more extreme measures.
Sometimes the best supplement is no supplement…
But, I also think that if your horse isn’t going to be ridden too much, and will have lots of leisurely pasture time and rest, then whats the point? You are paying more for no reason. Horses have naturally done just fine for a long time without supplements!
But it really depends on your horse!
If your horse is predisposed to arthritic issues, is showing signs or your vet is concerned, then its a different story. Or even if you really think that you’d rather be safe than sorry, then I would recommend:
It contains the magic combo of glucosamine and chondroitin you need as well as manganese. I’m not a huge fan of the manganese but it is a low amount and the studies work, which is what matters. I like this brand because the company is super transparent and they display their research on their site.
The product is scientifically proved to work. And it is also recommended by the majority of vets. These are both good and bad things. It means that its definitely safe and it has been shown to work but there is a good chance that it won’t work for a horse that has more severe issues because its safe rather than strong.
If your horse doesn’t need extra manganese
Basically, it’s a mild formulation, which is what you’re looking for if your horse isn’t doing too much. The only issue you may have with this one is if your horse is already consuming too much manganese. In this case, go with this product instead:
The reason I list Cosequin above Acti-flex is simply because Acti-flex doesn’t include concrete research although it does include a label. It works well for a lot of horses, it’s just slightly more “sketchy.” Also I do like Acti-flex because I truly believe in the power of collagen II (see below for more on damage repair).
Acti-flex 4000 also contains the magic combo of glucosamine and chondroitin as well as MSM and herbs for control of heat and pain. It’s definitely more powerful than Cosequin and also has a satisfaction guarantee on it but it’s just not backed with cold hard science.
For moderately worked horses
If your horse is moderately worked, especially in a very repetitive manner, then chances are over time issues may pop up. Cartilage damage is cumulative and once it passes a certain threshold, it can get very bad very quickly. So the key is to never let it pass that threshold.
Go for the heavier supplement
The way to do this is to supplement early to prevent repetitive stresses from having a slowly destructive effect. What I would recommend is again Nutramax’s Cosequin but you want the one optimized with MSM:
This formulation has higher dosages plus Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM). MSM, as mentioned in my other post, relieves pain and arthritic symptoms such as swelling and heat. Again, if you are worried about the manganese or simply want an alternative then try Acti-flex.
Furthermore, I would also include a preventative for your horse. Especially if there is a chance of your horse getting worked harder in the future. Refer to the preventative section below for my recommendation.
For heavily worked horses
If your horse is being heavily worked, then you want to go with the heavier duty supplements. You need to help your horse’s body keep up with the rate of degradation that goes along with high intensity, repetitive and high impact activities.
Even if you don’t like the ones that I suggest, I would strongly recommend putting your horse on something if you would list him or her in this category. You can always – and you should always – talk to your vet for guidance.
Find a supplement that works ASAP
It is almost inevitable, as with high performance human athletes, that horses who are very active will eventually develop joint issues unless they receive treatment. And as with anything else, but especially with joint issues, preventative care is always best.
Or the heavier duty version if your horse doesn’t respond:
I prefer the Cosequin ASU Plus because it doesn’t include Manganese, which is present in quite a large quantity in the Cosequin ASU. Unless you know that your horse needs that much for some reason, I would stick to the Plus.
To manganese or not to manganese
If you do want the manganese, then the Cosequin ASU contains everything in the Cosequin MSM as well as ASU and ascorbic acid. The ASU is good because it acts cumulatively as a preventative as I mentioned in the previous section.
If you don’t want the manganese then the Cosequin ASU Plus contains everything in the Cosequin MSM plus ASU and catechin from green tea extract. As mentioned, the ASU acts as a potent chondroprotective (protectant of cartilage) in order to prevent future damage. The catechin is an antioxidant which has anti-inflammatory and thus chondroprotective properties.
The only thing I would consider adding to Cosequin in this case is an independent collagen supplement, especially if you think that your horse may already have some damage. And definitely get if your horse isn’t responding to the Cosequin (see non responsive & damage control sections below).
For preventative measures
If you are only working your horse lightly or moderately now but you think you are going to be working your horse harder in the future, it’s better to invest in a preventative supplement sooner rather than later. Especially if your horse is already moderately to very active.
Act soon and prevent damage before it happens
As mentioned briefly before, this is because joint breakdown occurs little by little overtime. The body tried to cope with the damage by continuously repairing it but at a certain point it can’t keep up anymore if the rate of degradation exceeds the rate of repair. And then once the damage surpasses a certain threshold, the body can no longer fix it no matter the rest time.
With supplements, you are preventing the rate of degradation from exceeding the rate of repair because you are essentially helping the body to repair damage to a greater extent that it would naturally not be able to do. So then when your horse starts getting worked harder in the future, you know he or she is going into it with healthy joints without any existing degradation.
Add an ASU that’s chondroprotective
When it comes down to the biology, all supplements work in a preventative manner except for a few that have shown some regenerative capabilities, namely collagen. However, some supplements work specifically as long term preventative measures such as ASUs.
In order to prevent further issues down the line, you want to first make sure that your horse is not exhibiting any symptoms now. If he or she is, then make sure you find a supplement that works right now and get your horse to the vet if you haven’t already for diagnosis of the issue to make sure it isn’t serious.
Upgrade sooner rather than later
Instead of whatever regular supplement your horse is on, you should upgrade to an ASU supplement. The one I recommend is again the Cosequin ASU or ASU Plus. The reason I don’t recommend this right away with lighter worked horses is that chances are your horse doesn’t need all the extra stuff that’s in those heavier duty supplements at the moment. And they aren’t doing him or her much good but they are sucking money out of the bank.
For horses that don’t respond
If your horse isn’t responding to the Cosequin or Superflex, you want to switch to something more potent and unfortunately more expensive. Even if you’re only working your horse lightly or moderately, but you aren’t seeing an improvement then I would also suggest switching. Your horse may already have existing damage or simply may be prone to cartilage degradation.
Sometimes you just gotta go with what works
You now know that I get very annoyed at companies that aren’t straight forward and that don’t show all their ingredients or any concrete studies. But at the same time, I want to make sure your horse finds relief and if something works, then you need to know about it.
What I would recommend as a potent alternative is:
In addition, I would also recommend a collagen supplement (see below).
For damage control
As you may have read in my last post and you can also verify yourself by doing a quick search on Pubmed, collagen has the best scientific results when administered orally. By this I mean that it may in fact reverse damage rather than simply prevent it like all the other compounds.
The problem with collagen…
The issue is that there aren’t many collagen II supplements out there. I’ve found some independent ones used by bodybuilders. And there’s also Acti-Flex, but again there’s no solid research behind it.
The issue is that the discovery that collagen actually works very well is fairly new and preliminary. So there hasn’t been time and as much of an overwhelming incentive to product formulations with collagen like there has with the other compounds such as glucosamine and chondroitin.
I will keep digging regarding the Collagen and post an update here for you guys if I find anything more reputable.
For severe cases
Sometimes supplements just aren’t enough. If your horse’s damage is too severe, likely there won’t be that much – if any – effect produced. In this case, before you jump to injections, consider Equioxx. It is a NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) that works very well for virtually all equine joint disorders.
NSAIDs work by blocking prostaglandin production. Prostaglandins are the chemicals that cause inflammation resulting from cartilage degradation. The issue is this in arthritis, this inflammation leads to further cartilage degradation and it’s like a vicious cycle. So by blocking the cycle, NSAIDs are able to stop the advancement of the disease.
NSAIDs can cause some bleeding though so so definitely talk to your vet about it if you think it might be a good option for your horse.
I really hope this post was helpful for you guys and answered more in depth some of the previous comments that I got. Let me know if there are any more questions or comments below and I’ll reply to you within 24 hours!
Also I’d love to hear about the results that you got if you decided to try any of the products.
Happy riding 🙂
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