Comparing Joint Supplements for Horses
If you browse through any horse supply catalogue, you’re likely to notice the dozens of joint supplements available. Some are very pricey, and others, fairly reasonable. But do they work? And which ones are best? It can be a tricky endeavor trying to find just the right one for your horse.
Some people may tell you that you are wasting your money if you buy any joint supplement at all. . . but I beg to differ. I’ve read enough research and have had enough personal experience with oral joint supplements to know that some do, indeed, work.
Joint supplements can be beneficial for younger horses in training or competition as many can help prevent or slow down the rate of joint damage. They can also be helpful for your older horses with mild to moderate osteoarthritis.
When comparing joint supplements for horses, the key is knowing which ingredients to look for and the ingredient amounts which are effective. So here is a rundown on a few common joint supplement ingredients for horses as well as a few recommended products.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin
Glucosamine is probably the most well-known and most proven joint supplement ingredient. A type of sugar (glucose) molecule naturally occurring in joint cartilage, glucosamine has a high absorption rate and can protect against bone destruction. Studies have also shown that glucosamine can slow down the rate of wear on existing cartilage and even help repair damaged cartilage. There are two forms of glucosamine: sulfate and hydrochloride, and both have proven to be effective.
Chondroitin is another component of cartilage (as well as bone and some connective tissues) that is also commonly used in joint supplements. Glucosamine and chondroitin are often combined in supplements, and they seem to work best when used together. Dr. Kellon VMD, author of Horse Journal: Guide to Equine Supplements and Nutraceuticals, suggests (for a 500 kg horse) starting with 6,000 to 10,000 milligrams (mg) of glucosamine, with the higher dosage recommended for working horses and during the first week for any horse (loading dose). She recommends 1,250 to 5,000 mg chondroitin.
Many glucosamine/ chondroitin products for horses include a few other ingredients–I will list a few recommended products further down. . .
Hyaluronic Acid, commonly called HA, is one of the newer oral joint supplements on the market. Like glucosamine and chondroitin, HA is also naturally occurring within cartilage and joint fluid. If your horse has acute inflammation in his joints, HA may be the best way to go. With HA, the higher molecular -weight products (often more expensive) work better than the less expensive, lower molecular-weight products. The recommended dose for HA is usually 100 mg/day, but this dosage can be increased for severely inflamed joints.
I recommend: Conquer Gel: One 60 mL tube provides 100 mg of HA per 10 mL (6 doses) $10.85
Methylsulfonylmethane, a derivative of DMSO, is another naturally occurring compound which has shown to be beneficial for joints. MSM is a great source of dietary sulfur, a mineral involved in the health and maintenance of collagen, cartilage, hooves, and hair, as well as joint fluid and many important enzymes. MSM also provides significant anti-inflammatory and pain-killing effects for horses in hard work, as evidenced in this study-based article. Recommended dosages for MSM vary, so you may have to experiment with it a bit to see what works best for your horse.
I recommend: Animed Pure MSM 1 lb. for $9.47
Devil’s Claw is known as the ‘herbal bute’–it’s well known for it’s analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. Devil’s Claw is often added to other joint supplements, but it can also be used alone. Personally, I’ve used Devil’s Claw with soft tissue injuries in my horses and found it was quite beneficial. If a horse had mild arthritis, I might use it (alone) for that as well. The recommended dose for Devil’s Claw is 2,500 mg per day.
Yucca is another popular herbal anti-inflammatory which as been used for many years by Native Americans and more recently, the nutraceutical industry, for its anti-arthritic effects. Like Devil’s Claw, it can be used alone or as an added ingredient to another joint supplement.
The recommended dose for yucca is 3,000 mg/day of the 10% saponin powder or 15,000 mg/day of 2% saponin powder.
Boswellia is a botanical medicine derived from the resin of the Boswellia tree. Clinical studies (in humans and dogs) have shown boswelia to also be effective in reducing the symptoms of arthritis. It is also believed to help support the health of connective tissues. If given alone, 500 mg/day is the recommended dose for Boswellia extract.
Here is an herbal combination that I’ve used before and would recommend:
DC-Y Devil’s Claw/ Yucca Blend: 2,500 mg Yucca, 2,097 mg Devil’s Claw, 1,700 mg Grape Seed Meal, 500 mg Boswellia, 280 Cat’s Claw Herb, 168 mg Turmeric, 112 mg Feverfew, 112 White Willow Bark $31.00
Other Beneficial Joint Supplement Ingredients
There are a number of other herbs, vitamins, and minerals that are beneficial for joints. Here are a few of the more common ones you’ll see in joint supplements:
- vitamin C
Combination Joint Supplements
Many equine joint supplements on the market are combination products with several different ingredients. These may be the most effective supplements, but they are often the most expensive as well. Before purchasing a combination joint supplement, you may want to try a single-ingredient (or just glucosamine/ chondroitin) joint supplement to see if that works for your horse. However, if you don’t mind spending some money, here are some that I would recommend:
Chondrogen EQ: 5000 mg glucosamine sulfate, 500 mg chondroitin sulfate, 20 mg HA, and 20 mg manganese sulfate. 75 oz. $134.50
Lube All Plus: 64 oz. liquid supplement containing 100 mg sodium hyaluronate/oz, 4,000 mg MSM, 2,500 mg glucosamine sulfate, and 400 mg chondroitin sulfate. (64 doses) $174.95. (Smaller bottles are available from their website, but the 64 oz. from Amazon is the best deal I found.)
HylaRx Complete: 7,500 mg glucosamine, 5,000 mg MSM, 500 mg chondroitin sulfate, 100 mg hyaluronic acid and rice bran. 5 lbs. $81.24
Grand Flex: 5,000 glucosamine HCL, 5,000 mg Vitamin C, 3,000 mg methionine, 250 mg manganese, 200 mg lysine, 200 mg zinc, 150 mg vitamin B, 100 mg bioflavonoids, 80 mg proline, 50 mg copper. 1.9 lbs. $39.99
Cautions with Joint Supplements
Some joint supplement ingredients such as glucosamine, yucca, and MSM can worsen symptoms of insulin resistance, equine metabolic syndrome, or Cushing’s disease in horses. I would use extreme caution (work with your vet) or avoid these ingredients in these cases.
For related reading, check out this post on Natural Alternatives to Bute.