Should You Care About Horse Supplements?

Much like human supplements, horse joint supplements contain key ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, chondroitin, glucosamine, omega fatty acids, collagen, etc. These compounds help promote healthy joint function through cartilage maintenance and repair.

Also, much like human supplements, its not always clear how to choose the best horse joint supplement. But don’t panic! I’ve got you covered. 

Basic Information

What are these supplements for?

Most of the components found in these supplements are essential in normal cartilage function. Your horse’s body – and your body! – should make most of them naturally or acquire them naturally through a daily diet. However, even if everything is functioning normally, sometimes the body can’t keep up with the wear and tear of everyday life. This is particularly true for horses as they spend almost all their time on their hooves.

Horses that train often, compete in shows and races are even more susceptible to arthritic cartilage degradation and joint pain over time. The key to getting the right supplement for your horse is knowing what you want to achieve.

Are horse supplements right for you?

Do equine joint supplements really work? Most horse supplements that work prevent cartilage breakdown. But there are studies that show certain supplements may actually repair damaged cartilage.

Are you looking to prevent damage with a horse whose joints are fairly healthy but is about to start heavy training? Or is your horse already having some difficulties due to arthritic joint pain and cartilage damage?

You’re in luck! We know that horse supplements definitely work…for some horses. Some horses experience significant results, while other horses have no effect.

Your horse will likely see an effect IF you know some key things. Nutraceuticals, which is the term for these types of supplements, are loosely regulated by the FDA. This causes issues and means that you, as your horse’s owner, will need to do lots of digging.

The main problems with equine supplements

  1. Plenty of supplements do NOT contain the amounts of products that they say they do.
  2. Too low of a dose in crucial ingredients will have no effect while continuing to be an expense and delaying more effective treatment.
  3. They often contain unnecessary and non-beneficial ingredients.
  4. There are so many to choose from, it’s hard to know which one is best.

Breakdown of the Main Ingredients in Equine Supplements
Click here for breakdown (Sorry! The image was too large to paste in and still be readable) 

Key notes to remember

  • Glucosamine and chondroitin work significantly better when given together than separately. This means 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 promoting regeneration. Other supplements simply prevent further damage.
  • ASUs are great for long term preventative care. Start your horse on these early if you are planning on doing a lot of strenuous activity with them.

Now that you know roughly what works and what doesn’t and how much of it you need, you’ll need to start searching for the right supplement for your horse.

Step 1: Read the label

You need to verify that you’re meeting your horse’s needs. This may be more difficult than it sounds because some supplements will have the right amount of one thing but way too little of another thing. You may find that you have to mix and match.

If you do this, I recommend getting one mixed supplement that comes as close as you need to most of your compounds. Then buy whatever else you need as pure compound. For example, if you are just missing 1,000 mg of chondroitin, then get a pure chondroitin product and add whatever amount you have to add on top of your all-in-one supplement. This just makes it easier, cheaper and there’s less “stuff” you don’t know about floating around in mixed supplements.

Step 2: Dig deeper

You need to be looking into products very carefully before you choose to buy anything. Read reviews and forums. I would recommend spending 30 minutes to an hour on each supplement you are looking at seriously to try and figure out whether it’s delivering what it says it i

Keep in mind you will see good and bad reviews for everything. Just because that supplement didn’t have an effect for someone else’s horse doesn’t mean it may not be effective for yours. They may not have done their research and were dosing improperly.

What you are really looking for here is whether the company is reliable. Whether their label is legitimate and dependable. How long they have been around on the market. Whether they have been successful and acquired trust throughout the equine community. If you can answer yes to these questions, then you’ve probably got yourself a good product.

Step 3: Test, test and test again until you get it right

Run a test period with your horse to see whether the supplement works for him or her. Usually, you will see an effect within a month. If by the end of the month you are not seeing an effect, then consider switching and trying a new supplement.

Safety and Things to Keep in Mind

The key is finding what works for your horse. There is really no direct safety downside to using supplements except maybe giving too many minerals. There are however, indirect downsides. If you are seeing severe symptoms in your horse, don’t try and fix it yourself using supplements.

Supplements are meant for just that – to supplement whatever normal routine you have going. For issues like osteoarthritis, lameness, severe stiffness, and reluctance to move at all you want to get your horse to a vet.

Hoping to resolve a serious issue with supplements is just giving the issue time to worsen without appropriate, tailored care.

At the same time, you want to note that vets will all have different opinions about nutraceuticals. I don’t necessarily recommend following their advice exactly on whether or not you should use supplements or which ones to use. You can definitely take suggestions but do your own research and make your own decision.

Vets aren’t going to have the time to look into your horse’s specific needs like you do. And they’re going to have a different opinion than every other vet just because the science behind these supplements isn’t strong enough to back up one single angle. It’s all about what works for your horse! Once you find it, stick with it.

My Conclusion

If you are going to be working your horse, you may seriously want to consider starting them on some sort of supplement product(s). Remember that the real magic behind most of these these compounds thats really been proven is the ability to PREVENT degradation, not necessarily to repair it.

Combine the compounds that your horse needs keeping in mind that certain compounds are significantly more effective together than separate. Remember to find a supplement with collagen. These are not as easy to find but collagen has shown the highest and clearest effect in studies to date. Also make sure you’ve done your math right and your horse is getting the correct daily doses.

Hope this helps you out a little bit next time you’re stuck on what joint supplements to use! 

-Martina 

P.S. Sources: 

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18295513

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18692410

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12405690

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15892231

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20444013

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2337277

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22404506

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19927591

http://www.horsefeedblog.com/2011/03/omega-fatty-acids-what-do-they-do-for-horses/

http://www.equinearthritis.com/jointsupplements.html

http://thenaturallyhealthyhorse.com/joint-supplements-horses/http://gettyequinenutrition.biz/Library/OlderHorsesNeedSupplementalVitaminC.htm

http://www.equisearch.com/article/joint-supplements-horses-18712

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