In a recent blog, https://wp.me/p2WBdh-za, I talked about the big three joint supplement ingredients – glucosamine, chondroitin and hyaluronic acid. They are components of the joint cartilage and/or synovial fluid that bathes the joint space and interior of tendon sheaths and bursas. These compounds can assist the horse’s body in maintaining a normal homestatic balance between degeneration and repair and many horses do extremely well on them. However, there are exceptions.
The joint nutraceuticals are most supportive in situations of normally encountered stress to the joint and all surrounding tissue – i.e. exercise. The synovial lining is usually the first tissue to be stressed in the moving joint, with eventual production of thinner joint fluid and compromise of cartilage integrity if the body cannot balance the stresses with healthful and robust regenerative responses.
Joint movement may also strain tendons, ligaments and their attachment to bone (the enthesis). If degenerative processes in the joint outweigh repair, the synovial membrane becomes thickened and can become pinched between the ends of the bones during exercise, bleeding into the joint cavity and irritating it further.
Cartilage also thins if normal maintenance processes cannot keep pace with the load. As cartilage thins, the cushioning effect is reduced and the joint space narrows. Bone in the area above the joint is irritated. Eventually there can be bone on bone contact rather than the protective cap of cartilage normally present. This causes further irritation and bone begins to proliferate in an attempt to stabilize the joint.
Helping the horse’s body to restore homeostasis in the face of all these processes in different tissue types may benefit from more than the usual joint nutraceuticals. There are numerous food components, individual nutrients and plant-based naturally occurring compounds which normally assist in maintaining homeostasis in remodeling and inflammatory pathways.
They accomplish this in several ways. Some, like vitamin C, are necessary cofactors in tissue formation. Others are either direct antioxidants or components of key antioxidant enzyme systems. Free radical generation is an inevitable consequence of exercise and normal tissue housekeeping but when unbalanced can be harmful. Still others may normally influence specific pathways or even gene activity.
These useful substances include Yucca, Devil’s Claw, Turmeric, Boswellia, Golden Rod, Astragalus, White Willow, Perna Mussel, Cat’s Claw, Golden Rod, Phellodendron, Fever Few, Egg Shell Membrane, Hydrolyzed Collagen, fatty acids, Silica, Boron, Vitamin C, essential amino acids, B vitamins, copper, zinc, Bioactive Whey, MSM, Resveratrol and other flavonoids abundant in brightly colored fruits.
Horses most likely to benefit from more comprehensive support are animals which are older, previously injured or working heavily. Health and performance are all about homeostasis. There are many tools in your tool box.
Eleanor Kellon, VMD