Here are some nutrients found in food and sometimes supplemented that have an affect on joints:

Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect while omega-6 fatty acids have been linked to cartilage lesions and are ‘pro-inflammatory,’ Cetyl-myristoleate is a break down of an omega-5 fatty acid and has been shown to be effective in reducing arthritis pain and improving mobility in rats, mice and humans. That’s good news for horses. Flax and pasture are good places to find omega-3’s; stay away from corn oil as it’s high in omega-6’s.

Glucosamine is an amino sugar, which means it’s a building block for cartilage. Long –term studies in humans show that glucosamine supplementation slows osteoarthritis. Horse studies have shown that glucosamine reduces the destructive effects of some enzymes and metabolites that are breaking down tissues and causing inflammation. Currently, Glucosamine 2KCl is the only form of glucosamine shown to be small enough in molecular size to be effective in the equine body – so read the ingredients carefully. Not all ‘glucosamines’ are created equal.

MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane)
MSM is said to have anti-inflammatory effects and is often considered a good form of sulfur for the body. Cartilage with arthritis has 1/3 the level of sulfur that healthy cartilage has so MSM may help keep sulfur in the cartilage. Recently there have been some antioxidant properties shown with MSM as well.

Hyaluronic Acid
Hyaluronic acid is a main part of the synovial fluid that nourishes and lubricates the synovial joint. It is effective in reducing joint inflammation.

ASU (Avocado/Soy Unsaponifiables)
Studies show that horses eating ASU supplements create more cartilage builders and have less breakdown of cartilage.

In the previous post we talked a bit about oxidative damage and antioxidants. Antioxidants such as vitamin C and E are crucial for the development of cartilage but may also protect against breakdown of cartilage associated with oxidants.

Put it all together and some good advice is to reduce feeds that have an imbalance of omega-3 and omega-6 acids such as grains and corn oil. Provide more omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants by increasing your horse’s intake of forage and pasture grazing. Supplement with omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, antioxidants and trace minerals daily to protect the joint against inflammation and oxidative stress. Most horse's current environments are a lot different then what their body's were designed for.
     If your horse has existing joint problems or works very hard, consider adding nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, hyaluronic acid, MSM and ASU to his diet through supplmements. In Alaska, where our horses can’t be out on pasture for much of the year, they’re not getting enough antioxidants in their diet. We also live in a selenium deficient soil area (selenium is another antioxidant and required for life). And if you’re near horsetail…better consider the benefits of adding B1 and other B vitamins..but that’s another story.
Bottom line: aren't you glad we learned about the digestive system so all this talk about joints and bones makes a little more sense?


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    Lindsey Blaine is the leader of the Phantom Riders 4-H Club and has a master's degree in education and a bachelor's degree in biological science with emphasis in equine science. She trains horses and instructs riders in all-around disciplines and volunteers with multiple organizations. Her goal is to share years of knowledge and experience with others. Have a question about your project, from a meeting or in general? Ask!


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