Joint Care – The Basics

Simply because of their sheer size/mass, the joints of a horse bear a tremendous load. Since force = mass x acceleration, the load on joints only increases with exercise. Fortunately, the horse’s body is equipped with ways to balance these normal challenges to the joint and we can support efforts to do so by providing the correct support supplements. The place to start is with the core ingredients described below.

The three most familiar ingredients in joint support supplements are glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate and hyaluronate (hyaluronic acid). All three are naturally occurring components of healthy joint fluid, cartilage and the connective tissue matrix of bone. In addition to being structural elements in these tissues, they also serve important homeostatic functions.

Glucosamine has been found to support the expression of enzymes synthesizing hyaluronic acid as well as components of cartilage and help maintain balance between the activity of cells which break down versus build bone. Glucosamine also facilitates a healthy balance between cytokines favoring tissue destruction and those which repair and build.

Chondroitin sulfate has a similar action in supporting a healthy anabolic (builds) catabolic (breaks down) balance.  In fact, the actions of glucosamine and chondroitin complement each other.

Hyaluronic acid is a major contributor to the slippery, lubricating properties of joint fluid and it has many other functions, including the support of cell division and participating in normal clean-up and repair activities. Its presence in the joint cartilage gives it fluid holding capacity and resilience.

Target starting doses, especially for active horses are:

  • Glucosamine 8000 to 10,000 mg
  • Chrondroitin 2500 mg
  • Hyaluronic acid 50 to 100 mg

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) may assist in maintaining a balance between cytokines involved in breakdown, remodeling and repair.

Maintaining healthy joints is a challenge for any horse. Supplying basic support ingredients is a smart move.

Eleanor Kellon, VMD

About Dr. Kellon

Graduate of University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School. Owner of Equine Nutritional Solutions, www.drkellon.com, industry and private nutritional consultations, online nutritional courses. Staff Veterinary Expert at Uckele Health and Nutrition.
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