Like any athlete a horse’s joints suffer from general wear and tear. Riding on the roads, jumping on hard ground and the continual demand for greater flexion of the joints in dressage horses can all take their toll. Horses that live outside are less likely to show the effects of joint stiffening as their continual gentle movement around the field helps to keep them mobile and loose. But what else can horse owners do to help their horse’s joints as they age?
You’ve probably seen joint supplements on display in your local feed store. Do these products actually work?
Glucosamine is a naturally occurring compound that horses need in order to produce GAG's, or glycosaminoglycans, the molecules that repair and form cartilage and other tissues within the body. As the horse ages the production of GAG's slows down. Consequently, the cartilage within the horse’s joints wears away often resulting in the onset of degenerative joint disease and osteoarthritis.
Sources of Glucosamine
Luckily, owners can supplement their horse’s natural glucosamine. Most joint supplements contain chondroitin sulphate. This chemical helps to maintain cartilage heath by combating the enzymes that break down cartilage. Glucosamine combined with chondroitin sulphate can help to repair damaged cartilage within an older horse’s joints and is a very useful preventative measure for younger horses too.
There have been a number of studies carried out which do present evidence that supplementation with glucosamine is effective in the prevention and treatment of degenerative joint diseases in horses. Appropriate supplementation combined with careful management and considerate working should all help your horse’s joints as he ages. Feeding cod liver oil and vegetable oil is also reputed to help mobility issues in older equines.
You can help to keep your horse sound for longer by looking after his joints. Avoid working your horse excessively on hard ground, allow him freedom to keep his joints loose by turning him out and supplement his diet with a suitable additive product.
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