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Dr. Eleanor Kellon, VMD, Staff Veterinary Specialist for Uckele Health & Nutrition

It’s never too early or too late to make a difference with joint nutraceuticals.

The first joint nutraceuticals came to the market about 30 years ago and are here to stay with good reason – they work. In fact, a case could be made for supplementation for a horse of any age that is in formal work.

Studies in experimental animals have confirmed that glucosamine alone or in combination with chondroitin sulfate can help prevent the development of arthritis. Among the documented effects are stimulation of hyaluronic acid and collagen production, and improved bone mineral density.

Having conducted several very large scale field trials of joint nutraceuticals over the years, I can attest to their usefulness in young horses in training. Before they show any actual, obvious lameness per se, more subtle weight redistribution occurs, which has negative effects on their gaits. Movements become stiff, often disjointed, with rough transitions. Muscle pain often develops as well and behavior issues may appear.

Beatiful flowers adorn the racetrack.

Young horses being given joint nutraceuticals are far less likely to experience set backs due to joint issues. Their movement overall is much more coordinated and fluid. If a horse has already developed problems, it's not too late to make a difference with joint nutraceuticals.

“Osselets” is the common term for soft distentions of the fetlock joint in young horses. There is increased joint fluid and inflammation related to synovitis. Using the loading dose of a joint nutraceutical can support the alleviation of inflammation in 2 to 7 days.

More mature horses can benefit too, and the sooner the better. Horses are very strong and naturally athletic but don't make the mistake of thinking joint nutraceuticals are only indicated for upper level performers or those who have already developed joint issues. Simply adding the weight of a human greatly increases the strain on joints. Joint nutraceuticals can preserve soundness and joint health, not just address problems.

The core ingredients for any joint supplement are glucosamine (hydrochloride or sulfate), chondroitin sulfate and hyaluronic acid, aka hyaluronate. These are compounds normally present in the joint as components of cartilage and/or joint fluid.

Very low level inflammation is actually how the horse's body stimulates cartilage and joint fluid production. However, inflammation above the physiological amount is the first step in joint degeneration. A variety of other ingredients are helpful that include MSM, vitamin C and the naturally occurring antioxidants in brightly colored fruits.

Dressage is an elegant riding discipline

Herbs such as Devil's Claw, Cat's Claw, Boswellia and White Willow often have direct effects on gene expression. Even vitamins can come into play since vitamin C is also critical to normal collagen metabolism, the core protein in bone, cartilage, ligaments.

Compared to the cost of veterinary care and the side effect risks from medications, joint nutraceuticals are a bargain. If you haven't tried them yet, consider at least a 30 day trial this year as you start serious conditioning. Odds are you will be pleased with the obvious difference.

*Statements in this article have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration and are not offered as a diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease.

There are more informative articles in our section on Health & Education.

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