Why Does My Horse Need Joint Supplements?

Why Does My Horse Need Joint Supplements?

Horse joint supplements help your horse age better, move more easily, and reduce the impacts of joint stress.

Regardless of your horse’s age or the type of work your horse does, joint supplements are key in keeping your horse moving smooth and feeling healthy.

While horses are built for movement, we do ask them to do go above-and-beyond what their bodies are designed for. And because we see our horses as powerful and strong – it’s easy to overlook what is going on inside their bodies.

Often by the time you see physical signs of health issues or other joint problems, your horse has been uncomfortable for quite a while. This is why when it comes to horse joints – prevention is the best approach.  

Understanding the Horse Joint

The horse joint is unfortunately not built to last. This is exactly why your horse, regardless of age, activity level, or athletic history can benefit from joint supplementation.

A joint is made up of two or more bones that work together to support movement and to transfer weight load during movement. There are three types of joints:

  • Fibrous: this is a fixed joint such as the skull.
  • Cartilaginous: these joints are connected by cartilage and allow limited movement. For example, the vertebrae in your horse’s spine are cartilaginous joints.
  • Synovial: these joints are designed to absorb impact and support movement. Your horse has 18 synovial joints – each of which that are supported by ligaments, cartilage, and synovial fluid.

Synovial joints can be ball and socket, hinge, or gliding joints – each of these joints relies on synovial fluid to stay lubricated and flexible.

It is not uncommon for horses to experience stiffness, lameness, or stress in their synovial joints:

  • Bone Chips
    Commonly happen in the knees and front fetlock when a piece of bone chips off and floats within the joint causing injury and pain.
  • Osteoarthritis
    Often referred to as degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis impacts horses of all ages and activity levels. This is a degenerative condition where the cartilage protecting the bones in the joint breaks down causing bone-on-bone friction.

    Signs and symptoms include heat and swelling, lameness, stiffness, changes in the bone, or popping, grinding, or cracking sounds as your horse moves. Osteoarthritis commonly impacts knees, hocks, and stifles and can also affect any articular joint including the spine, hips, and jaw.
  • Osteochondrosis
    A developmental condition that affects young horses, osteochondrosis happens when soft cartilage cells become hard bone cells. This condition causes the cartilage in affected joints to have an irregular thickness, which causes weakness in the joint and can lead to the growth of bone and cartilage flaps that stay attached to the joint or break off and float in the joint.

    This results in pain and inflammation and can lead to arthritis. Osteochondrosis is typically caused by a number of co-occurring factors including rapid growth, dietary imbalances, genetics, hormonal imbalances, or trauma and exercise.

Joint health issues are normal – just like us humans, our horse’s joints need extra support to keep them healthy and pain-free.

To help keep your horse healthy, you must remember these keys to responsible horse management:

  • Weight management: extra weight puts more stress on your horse’s joints and can speed up joint deterioration.
  • Regular exercise: your horse is built to move; however, you need to make sure you’re not working your horse too hard. Pay attention to the signals your horse is giving you.
  • Balanced nutrition: it’s critical that your horse has a balanced diet that includes both adequate calories and nutritional support for his activity level and age.
  • Hoof care: your horse’s hooves tell you a lot about how he is moving and feeling. Keep your horse’s shoes trimmed and pay attention to the wear patterns on the shoes.
  • Limit hard surfaces: joint concussion happens more often when your horse is walking, jumping, or galloping for long periods on dry hard ground.

Remember to listen to your horse – the way your horse moves, greets you, lifts his head, responds to the saddle or approaches the trailer are all indicators of how your horse is feeling. Watch for any changes in behavior such as a reluctance to go for a ride or a pulling away during brushing.

Understanding Horse Joint Supplement Ingredients

The ingredients in horse joint supplements vary based on the type of horse the supplement is for. For example, horse joint supplements for senior horses have different ingredients than supplements for younger still developing horses.

Common ingredients in horse joint supplements include:

  • Glucosamine
    This is the most widely researched of joint support ingredients and is a fundamental building block for articular cartilage. Glucosamine helps prevent cartilage break down and supports the growth of new cartilage.  
  • Hyaluronic Acid
    Hyaluronic Acid (HA) is an integral component of joint cartilage and joint fluid that is distributed throughout connective tissues. HA is critical for joint lubrication and shock absorption, along with blocking inflammatory reactions.
  • Chondroitin Sulfate
    Chondroitin Sulfate works with glucosamine to help support healthy joints to promote the growth of new cartilage and to limit cartilage break down. This ingredient is key to your horse’s ability to produce HA and proteoglycans.
  • MSM
    MSM is a source of organic sulfur that supports healthy joint function.
  • Collagen Type II
    Collagen is the primary structural protein in connective tissue found in tendons, ligaments, bone cartilage, and skin. Collagen Type II represents 95% of the collagen found in articular cartilage tissue. Type II collagen provides strength, lubrication, resiliency, and studies show it stimulates the growth of articular cartilage.

You may also see the following ingredients listed: Vitamin C, Zinc, Manganese, Lysine, Methioninee, Vitamin B-3, Niacin, Copper, Proline, Bioflavonoids, Devil’s Claw, or Omega 3 & 6.

When reading supplement ingredients make sure the supplement is manufactured in an FDA-approved facility. Additionally, verify that the manufacturer is a member of the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC). The mission of the NASC is to police the supplement industry, ensuring that the animal health supplements produced by member companies are safe and effective.

Healthy Joints for an Active and Happy Horse

When your knee aches, the last thing you want to do is go for a run – the same holds true for your horse. Talk to your veterinarian about how you can best support your horse’s joints.

Remember to pay attention to the keys of horse care and management – and above all else think preventive long-term when it comes to the health of your horse.

Our goal at Grand Meadows is to make sure your horse is healthy, happy, and strong. Please feel free to contact me with any questions you have about your horse and their health.

by Nick Hartog
In 1994, Nick Hartog became an owner and President of Grand Meadows Equine Supplements bringing his talents and extensive background in domestic and international equine sales and manufacturing. He has a reputation for plain speaking of the truth. In 1997, when the US horse supplement market was something akin to the Wild West with a complete lack of standards, Nick personally tested 32 different horse joint supplements to see if they matched the label. Unsurprisingly, to him at least, only 2 products matched the label claim. 
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