Any place in the horse’s body where 2 of its 205 bones meet is considered a joint. There are three types of joints: fibrous joints, which harden and become immobile as the horse matures, cartilaginous joints, which are slightly movable (such as the joints between the vertebrae), and synovial joints, which are highly movable and most prone to injury. A synovial joint consists of two bone ends covered with articular cartilage and surrounded by a joint capsule. The joint capsule contains an inner membrane that secretes synovial fluid. Synovial fluid is used to lubricate the joint and to provide nutrients and removes waste from the joint.
Although the joint capsule and synovial fluid are nature’s way of protecting the joint, domestic horses are required to withstand far more stress on the joints than their wild predecessors. In fact, nearly 60% of all lameness reported is due to joint pain! Even trail horses often sustain joint pain from carrying weight on their backs. To prevent and alleviate this pain it is important to ensure your horse has good joint health. One of the most common ways to improve joint health, beyond feeding a well-balanced diet and proper conditioning, is by feeding an oral joint supplement.
The most common ingredients found in joint supplements are glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM, and/or hyaluronic acid. Glucosamine and chondroitin are often supplemented together to help promote healthy cartilage. Glucosamine is thought to enhance the repair and formation of cartilage while chondroitin is thought to increase water retention and elasticity and inhibit enzymes that break down cartilage. Both of these compounds are naturally found in the body and are often sourced from crustacean shells or bovine cartilage for supplementation. MSM supplements are also thought to enhance joint health through cartilage repair and formation. MSM contains a high amount of sulfur, which helps maintain the structure of connective tissue by forming cross-linkages from disulfide bonds.
Hyaluronic acid is also an important component of cartilage, but, unlike the previously mentioned compounds, it is also the primary component of the synovial fluid. It acts as a binding and lubricating agent and shock absorber in the joint and also provides a natural anti-inflammatory effect. These benefits, along with the many other benefits of hyaluronic acid, such as improved digestive health, eye health, skeletal health, and skin and coat condition, suggest hyaluronic acid is vital to improving both your horse’s joint heath and overall health. Plus, research shows it is more readily absorbed and bioactive than glucosamine or chondroitin. We recommend Hyaluronex, used by Olympians Beezie Madden, Ian Millar, and Amy Millar, because it provides the most concentrated, pure and research proven hyaluronic acid available on the market.