It does not seem that one day goes by without somebody asking ‘what can I feed my horse to support the health of his joints’. So were does one start? walk into any produce shop, flick through your favourite magazines and it’s a jungle out there….so many mixes, so many choices.
Why feed a supplement?
Joint problems can occur as a natural result of wear and tear in our older horses this is to be expected but problems far earlier in our horses careers may occur when the joint is exposed to continuous, unnatural stresses, such as is seen in the dressage horse as they routinely stretch their joints to the maximum, or the show jumper or eventing horse will put all the force of jumping through one leg as they land. Of course with competition horses the use of drugs is prohibited, and really long term use of any drug is no good for the horses general well-being overall, but there is help for your equine mate, you can help to prevent detrition leaving many years for competition and enjoyment of your horse.
So which nutrients?
Glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate have the ability to replace cartilage tissue and support the viscosity of the synovial fluid within the joint that becomes thin and watery when the joint is stressed. It has been shown the first part of the joint to suffer under stress is the cartilage. Repeated high pressures can wear away at this protective layer, leaving it thin and rough; and leaving the individual with osteoarthritis.
Glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate can be fed both as an insurance measure and where problems are evident, both products can be purchased separately but the cost of Chondroitin is quite high and make sure you by a human high grade Glucosamine. Shark’s cartilage is a natural source of both glucosamine and chondroitin.
MSM is useful where soft tissue is compromised, as bio-available sulphur is required for protein, and hence, repair and regeneration. MSM can assist with pain and inflammation that may accompany cartilage stresses.
Antioxidants, Rosehips, also have a role to play with keeping your horses working joints ‘working’ so in short, as well as feeding supplements for healthy joints make sure you go all the way by looking at the diet your horse is on.
For non-competitive horses
For those that are concerned at keeping their retired horses with a quality of life, Devils Claw may be used, it has been shown that Devils Claw will assist in pain. Buying the herb in a dried form it is easy to add this to your retired fellows food but just letting it steep in boiling water, and when cool adding it to their feed. Of course do not use this herb in competition horses and always consult with your vet before adding to your horses feed.
By Kip Moore
Disclaimer: The herbal information provided in this article is intended for educational/general discussion purposes only. The herbs described are intended solely to enhance general health, or to bring awareness to them and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Nothing listed within Eques magazine should be considered as advice for dealing with a given problem. You should consult your vet for individual guidance for specific equine health problems. Eques cannot stress enough that with serious health or behaviour problems of your horse, you should seek professional qualified advice. We also advise, that if you intend to feed any of the herbs we discuss, you do so at your own risk.