Keeping Your Horse’s Joints Fluid and Functional

Keeping Your Horse’s Joints Fluid and Functional

Joint Support for Performance Horses

Your horse is a very valuable competitor and companion to you as a horse owner. The time and effort put in training and care is immense. So, you want your horse to live a long, healthy, athletic life. However, joints of horses performing at high levels are taxed heavily during competition. So, it is our job to provide them with preventative care and maintenance of their joints. Oral joint supplementation helps to slow the progression and improve symptoms of osteoarthritis and, therefore, can help lengthen your horse’s performance life. The main players in preventing and managing osteoarthritis are:

  • Glucosamine,
  • MSM,
  • Hyaluronic Acid (HA)
  • Complete Vitamin-Mineral Package




One of the building blocks of cartilage and other connective tissues throughout a horse’s body. It incorporates with glucosaminoglycans in order to lubricate and act as shock absorbers in joints. However, wear and tear takes its toll on joints and degrades naturally occurring glucosamine and glycoaminoglycans, which make up cartilage, as osteoarthritis progresses. The anti-inflammatory properties of oral glucosamine have been shown to stimulate the production of glycoaminoglycans, helping joints to better lubricate and absorb shock. Glucosamine has been shown in numerous studies to benefit arthritic horses. Research done by Forsyth et al.(2006) found that after 8 weeks of supplementing with 5000 mg of glucosamine, arthritic horses had increased joint motion and stride length. In a similar study, Carden et al. (2013) reported increased joint motion after 90 days of glucosamine supplementation. Increased motion and stride length indicate that the horses they studied had less inflammation in their joints, which would allow the horses to perform at a higher level and with less pain than the arthritic horses that weren’t supplemented.

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)

A sulfur-containing compound that plays a role in antioxidant function and connective tissue health. Sulfur from MSM is involved in the integrity of collagen, cartilage, and joint fluid. It is crucial in the formation of cross-bridges between collagen molecules, which add strength and stability to the structure of collagen-rich tendons, ligaments, joint tissues, and connective tissue. The anti-inflammatory properties of MSM help to inhibit cartilage glycoaminoglycans degradation. Therefore, providing your horse with 5000 mg of MSM supplementation can help prevent as well as slow the progress of osteoarthritis.

Hyaluronic Acid (HA)

HA is a member of glycoaminoglycans that is found in healthy joint fluid and cartilage. HA gives viscosity to joint fluid and suppleness to cartilage. In inflamed joints, HA breaks down and the joint fluid becomes more watery, making the joint less lubricated. In the cartilage, HA forms a complex with aggrecan (another glycosaminoglycan) that keeps the cartilage flexible and resistant to being overly compressed. Studies show that horses receiving 100 mg of hyaluronic acid each day have less joint swelling and fewer examinations by veterinarians due to lameness.

College National Finals Rodeo

A complete vitamin-mineral supplement will help to provide other crucial components to healthy joints, such as copper, zinc, manganese, and vitamin C. Copper is required for the production of normal connective tissues, which include tendons and ligaments, and the framework of bones and cartilage lining of the joints. Zinc functions as an antioxidant that helps to remove free radicals that damage tissues and cause inflammation. Manganese is essential in the body’s ability to produce chondroitin sulfate, which maintains normal joint cartilage and repairs cartilage. Vitamin C also functions as an antioxidant that protects tissues and is necessary for collagen formation.

When considering a joint supplement for your horse, and to ensure that your horse is receiving the best joint support possible, look at the ingredients list. Make sure that the joint supplement has glucosamine, MSM, and HA. Providing your horse a complete vitamin and mineral supplement will ensure they are receiving copper, zinc, manganese, and vitamin C. By providing your performance horse with joint support and a complete vitamin and mineral supplement you are protecting your investment as well as your companion, ensuring that you have a happy, healthy horse for years to come.



Carden, A.N, K.J. Duberstein, and K.K. Turner. 2013. Effects of oral glucosamine sulfate supplementation on gait parameters and blood oxidative status in the aged horse. J. Equine Vet. Sci. 33: 321-399.

Forsyth, R.K., C.V. Bridgen, and A.J. Northrop. 2006. Double blind investigation of the effects of oral supplementation of combined glucosamine hydrochloride and chondroitin sulphate on stride characteristics of veteran horses. Equine Vet. J. Suppl. 36: 622-625.

About Dr. Kelsey J. Nonella Ph.D., P.A.S.

Kelsey J. Nonella, Ph.D. is an equine nutritionist who was riding horses before she could walk. Her love for horses drives her to help educate people on what their horses’ needs in order to have happy, healthy horses. Kelsey went to Cal Poly receiving a Bachelor’s of Science in Animal Science and then onto West Texas A&M, where she got her Masters and eventually her Doctorates in Equine Science. At A&M, Dr. Nonella did extensive research on Selenium within horses. Click here to view her research. Kelsey’s colleagues have mentioned her as an one of the United States equine Selenium experts.
View all posts by Dr. Kelsey J. Nonella Ph.D., P.A.S.

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