Joint Supplements for Horses: A Review of MSM, Glucosamine and Other “Typical” Ingredients

Horse eating Joint Supplement from Owner's Hand

Due to the risk of over-supplementation, horse owners must be cautious of the ingredients used when supplementing for hoof and joint health. Joint supplements containing glucosamine, hyaluronic acid, chondroitin sulfate, and MSM are often given in addition to hoof supplements. These ingredients are typically “thought of” when discussing nutrition for joint health, but do they make a difference? How do they affect your horse when given with other supplements?

Supplementing Horses with sulfur from MSM vs. sulfur-containing amino acids

Synthetic MSM contains about 34% sulfur and is manufactured via a chemical reaction involving DMSO (dimethyl sulfoxide) and hydrogen peroxide. A refinement process is necessary to remove any impurities and toxic by-products from the MSM following the chemical reaction.

Excess sulfur in the diet has been shown to block the proper absorption of copper in many species. Copper and Vitamin C are necessary to form collagen to build the healthy connective tissue essential for strong hooves and joints. Reduced copper absorption from excessive sulfur supplementation will produce the opposite of the intended, resulting in diminished hoof and joint health.

Methionine and cystine are the two sulfur-containing amino acids. Quality hoof supplements contain these amino acids. Rather than MSM, methionine and cysteine are the sources of the sulfur needed to build healthy connective tissue for strong hooves.

Excessive sulfur supplementation often occurs when feeding a hoof supplement and a joint supplement concurrently. As a rule, when feeding a hoof supplement containing methionine, do not add a joint supplement containing MSM.

Farrier’s Formula® DS Plus Joint is a balanced Hoof and Joint supplement formulated with methionine and cysteine to provide the sulfur needed for Hoof and Joint support. Feeding Farrier’s Formula® DS Plus Joint eliminates the risk of sulfur over-supplementation.

Glucosamine in Joint Supplements for Horses

Glucosamine
Glucosamine is often included in Equine Joint Supplements.

Equine joint supplements usually contain glucosamine. Glucosamine is a specialized form of sugar the body utilizes for cartilage development. Although glucosamine is not directly converted to glucose, supplementation at higher levels has been implicated in increasing insulin secretion because the body thinks there is excess glucose in the bloodstream. As a precautionary measure, avoiding glucosamine administration may be recommended for horses with metabolic issues or recurring bouts of laminitis. 

Due to this risk, a few Joint supplement manufacturers have elected to remove Glucosamine as an ingredient. Farrier’s Formula® DS Plus Joint is frequently used for horses recovering from laminitis and laminitis-prone horses. Farrier’s Formula® DS Plus Joint does not contain Glucosamine.

Hyaluronic Acid for Equine Joints

Hyaluronic acid has proven beneficial when injected. However, little evidence exists when given orally that the compound is absorbed intact through the equine intestines or makes its way to the joints. Supplementing hyaluronic acid may or may not have benefits to the joint. Farrier’s Formula® DS Plus Joint does not contain hyaluronic acid.

Chondroitin Sulfate in Equine Joint Supplements

Chondroitin sulfate is derived from animals or marine life. Animal-derived ingredients or animal-origin ingredients increase the risk of contamination with harmful bacteria or other unsafe compounds when added to feed products. There is also little evidence that supplementing chondroitin sulfate to horses benefits the joints. Farrier’s Formula® DS Plus Joint does not contain Chondroitin.

Farrier’s Formula® DS Plus Joint

Farrier's Formula DS Plus Joint
Farrier’s Formula® DS Plus Joint Rebuilds Hoof and Joint Health

To address these issues, Life Data® developed Farrier’s Formula® DS Plus Joint. Farrier’s Formula® DS Plus Joint does not contain MSM, chondroitin sulfate, hyaluronic acid, or glucosamine. Farrier’s Formula® DS Plus Joint also contains the correct level of sulfur provided organically by methionine and cystine.

Farrier’s Formula® DS Plus Joint is effective by strengthening the connective tissue of the ligaments surrounding the joints and rebuilding cartilage. Ornithine, an active ingredient in the product, works with arginine in the urea cycle to reduce ammonia levels. Ammonia is converted to urea. Urea has notable detrimental effects on the joints and cartilage, even at low levels. Long-term excessive urea levels in humans lead to gout.

Proline is another active ingredient. It is an amino acid that gives ligaments “stretch,” providing additional motion for the joints and making ligaments and joints less susceptible to injury and the resulting inflammation. People commonly take Proline to decrease joint pain.

Manganese is another ingredient in Farrier’s Formula® DS Plus Joint and is an essential component of cartilage. The product has many more ingredients to build and support the joints, hooves, and skin connective tissue.

Farrier’s Formula® DS Plus Joint works with a unique and different approach to joint care. It also provides all the benefits to hoof health that our original Farrier’s Formula® Double Strength provides to the horse. When providing Farrier’s Formula® DS Plus Joint, horse owners can take comfort in knowing they are promoting the health of their horse’s hooves and joints with a balanced product backed by years of research.

Equine Joints: Prolonging the Career of a Working Horse

Equine Joints: Prolonging the Career

What is a Working Horse?

A working horse can be classified as any horse involved in labor or athletics. This includes horses that participate in the following activities:

  • Jumping
  • Racing
  • Pulling
  • Trail riding
  • Farm work
  • Long distance riding
  • Reining
  • Barrel Racing
  • Driving
  • Eventing
  • Dressage
  • Many other occupations

These athletic activities put extra strain on equine joints and muscles. The horse’s joints will begin to wear as it continues to work and perform, often leading to discomfort, loss of mobility, and bone-on-bone movement. Unfortunately, the deterioration of the horse’s joints often lead to a shorter career.

Younger horses are physically strong but are immature and lack experience. Older horses are mature and well trained, but their bodies are no longer in peak condition. Although different for each discipline or workload, there is a short window of time where the horse is in peak physical and mental condition. For example, most Dressage horses perform between the ages of 8-10, where racing horses tend to start competing and retiring much earlier. This can be frustrating for many horse owners who are continually training new horses.  After investing so much time, money, and love into our working horses, it’s understandable that we want to see them stay at the top of their game for as long as possible. So, how do we extend the working life of our horses?

Prevention = Preservation

It is much easier to prevent a joint injury than to fix one. Therefore, prevention is key when discussing how to extend the career of a working horse. By taking the necessary steps to protect equine joints, you are protecting the investment you have made into that horse. Below are a few tips on how to extend the career of your working horse.

Supporting Equine Joints with a Balanced Diet

  • A balanced diet is one of the most important factors in extending the career of your horse. Improper nutrition can lead to a range of hoof, joint, skin, and health related issues.
    • For example: Excess protein in a horse’s diet can cause inflammation in the joints.
  • Providing proper nutrition supports the energy and strength needed to meet extra physical demands. This can make the horse more resilient to injury, recover faster after work, and provide essential nutrients for proper health.

Pregnancy and Birth

  • Many aspects of your horse’s health can be influenced during pregnancy. This is particularly true in the case of joint and bone health. Fetal development is dependent of the nutrition and health of the mare.  Ensuring that the mare is healthy and receiving proper nutrition can help the development of a newborn foal.
  • The health and development of a young foal is a foundation for a healthy adult horse. Improper nutrition and care can negatively affect this development and lead to future problems.

Hoof Care

  • A horse cannot perform at its full potential with unhealthy hooves. Horses inflicted with a hoof related issue can experience pain, discomfort, or become lame. Even a small hoof crack can lead to serious issues if left unchecked. Attempting to perform with unhealthy hooves can also lead to injury.
  • If your horse is inflicted with a hoof related issue that is causing pain, it may begin to distribute its weight to the other hooves for relief. This weight imbalance can weaken the other hooves and apply more pressure to the joints.
  • Unbalanced hooves can also create future hoof and joint problems for your horse. Balanced hooves evenly distribute the weight of your horse across all four hooves. If the hooves become unbalanced, this distribution becomes uneven, and adds extra weight to certain joints. If this uneven distribution continues, joint and hoof problems may follow.
  • A regular farrier schedule along with daily hoof care, a balanced diet, and hoof supplementation can all help maintain healthy hooves.

Supplementation and Remedies for Equine Joints

  • Supplementation for equine joints can be used to help ensure your horse is receiving the nutrients needed to maintain healthy joints, hooves, or maintain body condition. Providing a joint supplement or formula is especially important for the working horse. Feeding a quality joint formula regularly and early in the horse’s career can help protect the joint from injury and extend the life of your horse’s joints.
  • When supplementing with a joint formula, it is also important to be mindful of over supplementation. Especially if you are feeding a separate hoof supplement. We recommend using a combination hoof and joint formula that not only helps lubricate and reduce inflammation in the joints, but also strengthens the ligaments that support the joints.

Proper Training

  • It is important to know the limitations of your horse while training. Don’t push your horse too hard too fast, and always warm up before going to work. Start out slow and work your way up. Pushing your horse past their limitations can damage the joints and lead to injury. An injury early in your horse’s career can lead to future problems, and an injury late in your horse’s career can end it.

If your horse is injured or begins experiencing joint pain, it is important to consult with your veterinarian. Feel free to contact us if you have questions regarding equine health at cservice@lifedatalabs.com.