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Understanding Joint Supplements

Regardless of the discipline that you ride, joint care is important for keeping your horses happy and healthy. The many options available for joint care products can be overwhelming. To help you determine the best one for your horse, first you need to understand the major ingredients in these supplements. 


Glucosomine is the basic building block for healthy cartilage and connective tissue. It helps to lubricate joints and rebuild cartilage, as well as to reduce inflammation from muscle soreness, arthritis, torn cartilage, and joint degeneration. Glucosamine can come in pure manufactured form, or it can be isolated from shellfish, or even vegetable sources (good for horses with shellfish allergies).  The quality and efficacy of glucosamine can vary greatly, so invest in a product you trust.

Chondroitin Sulfate

Chondroitin sulfate is a major structural component of cartilage, bone, and tough connective tissues. A loss of chondroitin sulfate from the cartilage is a major cause of osteoarthritis. Chondroitin sulfate is usually extracted from bovine cartilage. Research has shown that glucosamine and chondroitin seem to work better together than they do separately.

Hyaluronic Acid (HA)

Hyaluronic Acid (also known as hyaluronate or HA) is a component of the cartilage and joint fluid that helps lubricate the joints and absorb shock. It can be effective in controlling pain, heat, and swelling, and it is often used to treat acute joint flare-ups where heat and swelling are present. Liquid forms cost more but seem to be more effective than powdered forms.

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)

MSM is an organic sulfur compound that is manufactured. Although it is still not clear exactly how MSM works, it is an effective anti-inflammatory agent found in a lot of joint supplements. MSM helps reduce pain and aids in increasing circulation, which helps the healing process. MSM also helps rebuild damaged tissue. It is a relatively cheap ingredient that can be purchased separately from your joint supplement.


Yucca is a natural plant agent that helps diminishes the amount of toxic buildup around and within the joints. It effectively diminishes inflammation.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C plays an important role in keeping cartilage and connective tissue healthy. It helps the body rebuild healthy tissue and helps reduce inflammation. However, this is an ingredient where more is not better, so be mindful if your horse is already receiving Vitamin C from fresh grass or other sources.

Cetylated Fatty Acids (Cetyl Myristoleate or CMO)

Cetyl Myristoleate is a fatty acid that can help with pain and protect cartilage, especially when combined with other joint care ingredients such as glucosamine and chondroitin. It proved to block inflammation and prevent arthritis in studies done with mice.

Avocado and Soybean Unsaponifiables (ASU)

Avocado and soybean unsaponifiables are plant fats that have been extracted and purified. Studies have shown that ASU can help protect against cartilage breakdown and overall inflammation. As with cetyl myristoleate, it is a slow-acting ingredient that may be very effective in the long-term.

Harpagophytum (Devil’s Claw)

Devil’s Claw is a plant in the sesame family whose roots have been used medicinally for centuries to reduce pain and stimulate digestion. European colonists even brought devil’s claw to the US where it was widely used it to treat arthritis.

Grapeseed Extract

Grapeseed extract is derived from whole grape seeds, and has been shown to reduce inflammation and improve bone density.


Silica has been shown to help keep tendons and ligaments strong. Researchers first studied communities living in remote areas of Georgia (near Russia) where the ground water carried high concentrations of silica. The people and animals living in these regions were virtually free of arthritis and joint problems. Adding silica to your joint care program could offer improved bone development and health over the long term.


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