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Are Horse Joint Supplements a Waste of Money? - Expert advice on horse care and horse riding

Are Horse Joint Supplements a Waste of Money?

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The subject of horse joint supplements is a favorite of mine, possibly because there’s so much misinformation out there and because these horse joint supplement products are so dang expensive! It’s bad enough when you’re using them right, but when you’re not, it is more money in the manure pit.

If your veterinarian tells you that you’re wasting your money on horse joint supplements because they don’t work or because the horse can’t absorb the molecules, ask the veterinarian to explain the overwhelming anecdotal evidence surrounding horse joint supplements. A huge number of people have fed horse joint supplements to their horses for decades now, and they’ve added years of comfort to horses in the early stages of arthritis, simply by using the right horse joint supplement.

You can also ask them if they’ve heard of Nutramax (they have!). Nutramax, makers of Cosequin, did early research on horse joint supplement ingredients, like glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate. That information was so strong and reliable that it’s now used by many different manufacturers when making up a horse joint supplement formula.

Now, if your veterinarian tells you that your horse’s condition has degenerated too much for a horse joint product to make a difference, that’s another story. You can always try a horse joint product for 60 days anyway, just to see if it helps, as it will only hurt your wallet. You can also leave the horse on the loading dose for longer than recommended (there’s a huge safety margin surrounding these products) to see what happens, if he needs a little more help. I’ve left some horses permanently on loading dose.

Start with plain glucosamine, if it’s your first time giving the horse a joint product, then progress to something including glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, if just glucosamine didn’t help.

If that doesn’t work, consider an HA (hyaluronic acid) product.

Boswellia and yucca also tend to have good anti-inflammatory effects, and may be worth including in the product. Devil’s claw is a strong anti-inflammatory, and I can tell you that it works as well as 1 bute without the side effects of long-term use. Remember: These aren’t drugs; they’re horse supplements designed for arthritic support. Don’t expect a miracle, and be sure you know what the horse’s problem is, too. These aren’t an excuse to skip a veterinary call. This is your horse’s health we’re talking about.

Another thing your veterinarian might say is that horse joint supplements aren’t as effective as the injections they can give your horse, meaning Adequan or Legend. That may be true, but it also may be that they can be the “next step,” not the first step. I won’t argue with a veterinarian, but there are times I’ll pay for a second opinion. If you get results with a horse joint supplement, you should be able to avoid routinely injecting your horse, at least for some time. And any time you give your horse an injection, there is a risk of infection, so it’s worth putting off.

My next horse joint supplement pet peeve, if you will, is the level of ingredients in some of these products. I believe that more than with any other horse feed supplement, you’ll find horse joint supplement products for sale that contain sub-optimal levels in them. In other words, it has glucosamine for horses in it, but the recommended level of that glucosamine for horses is too low to have a real therapeutic effect. That’s because these are extremely expensive ingredients, and it’s one way they can lower the price to make it more appealing.

While admittedly solid research about horse joint supplement ingredients is still lacking, products like glucosamine for horses have been fed widely for more than 15 years. During that time, certain levels of glucosamine or MSM for horses or other joint products for horses have been noticed to be therapeutic.

Of course, all these horse joint supplement ingredients require you to initially give a two-week loading dose, which is double the maintenance dose. This isn’t just to sell you more product. What it does is more quickly build up the levels in the horse so that you will see effects faster. You won’t see effects until that build up is there. On the flip side, once you’ve stopped feeding a horse joint supplement after using it for six months or a year, you may see benefits last up to six weeks.

So when you’re looking for glucosamine for horses or another horse joint supplement ingredient, aim for a starting level of these key ingredients: 10,000 mg glucosamine; 6000 mg chondroitin; 100 mg hyaluronic acid; 20,000 mg MSM. If you’re using a combination ingredient, some of these levels could be lower. And choose a product that has an expiration date on the label. The NASC seal is also an indicator of a company who cares. That means they’re a member of the National Animal Supplement Council, and they submit to period audits and checks to ensure they’re offering a good product.

If you don’t see results with your joint supplement, you may want to talk with your veterinarian about a different product, options or treatment.