A look at horse oral joint supplement ingredients

A look at oral joint supplement ingredients that are backed by science

Supplement in Container

Can you name one of the most common causes of lameness in horses? If you said osteoarthritis (OA), you’re right. As common as it is, OA remains an incurable disease, and once it presents itself in a joint, there’s no going back.

Knowing this might cause you to sprint over to the supplement aisle of your local feed or tack store, only to be met with an overabundance of oral joint supplements, each label touting an ability to prevent or slow OA progression. But, believe it or not, most of these supplements’ ingredients have no scientific backing in horses, with label claims relying on data extrapolated from research performed in humans and other animals. So which oral joint ingredients do have published results specifically in horses? Let’s find out.

Glucosamine & Chondroitin Sulfate

Glucosamine is an amino monosaccharide (sugar attached to the amino acid glutamine). Chondroitin sulfate is a glycosaminoglycan (GAG), an important component of articular (joint) cartilage.

Mode of Action Both glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate help protect and provide nutrients to joints. Glucosamine is a precursor to (it transforms, chemically, into) GAGs such as chondroitin sulfate. Chondroitin sulfate gives articular cartilage resistance to compression.

Research Researchers have performed many in vitro (in the laboratory, on tissue samples) studies to better understand glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate’s mode of action at the cellular level, either alone or combined. Note that unlike in vivo studies performed on living animals, these experiments do not precisely mirror the conditions found in nature. One involved corticosteroid joint injections, which veterinarians commonly administer to promote joint health. However, some corticosteroids can inhibit proteoglycan (basically a chain of GAGs with a core protein molecule) production, negatively affecting articular cartilage. At the University of Illinois in 2008, Byron et al. found that glucosamine helped protect proteoglycan production when the cartilage was exposed to a corticosteroid.

Using articular cartilage from horse cadaver limbs in 2003, researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) found that glucosamine reduced the expression of genes for matrix metalloproteinases (enzymes responsible for cell degradation) and could help protect joint cartilage.

Another team of MSU researchers took articular cartilage from cadaver limbs and exposed it to mechanical impact to simulate a joint injury. By culturing the cartilage with a combination of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate (GC), they concluded that GC could help mitigate some of the inflammatory response following joint trauma (Harlan et al., 2012).

Outside of the lab, Martha Rodgers, VMD, of Shephard Hill Equine, in Kentucky, followed 10 hunter/jumper and eventing horses for eight years in a published field study looking at a glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate supplement’s effects on hock injection frequency. Before starting on the supplement, the horses averaged 1.7 joint injections per year at 6.8-month intervals. During the six years they consumed the supplement at the manufacturer’s recommended dose, the horses’ average number of joint injections dropped to 0.85 every 9.98 months. Rodgers did note that six to eight months of consistent GC supplement use is necessary prior to seeing results. It’s also important to note that the level of evidence in this small-scale study is not as strong as that of a placebo-controlled and blinded trial.

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The equine therapist


Plopped onto a horse at only a few months old, Jenny Norton Schamber, the owner and trainer of Rope This Ranch, cannot picture a life without them. With over 30 years of experience with horses, and with the ranch being open for 18 of those years, Schamber’s love of riding began at a young age.

“I was born riding on a horse,” she said.

An Upland native, Schamber completed her undergraduate degree in mathematical economics at Ball State University. She then went on to receive her master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling from Indiana Wesleyan University. While at Ball State, she was on the equestrian team. In 1996, on Ball State’s team, she competed in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association Nationals at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center and placed 3rd in the nation for Open Stock Seat.

Just four years later, she opened the ranch, located just two miles from Taylor’s campus. Currently, she is a counselor at Taylor’s Counseling Center, in addition to her regularly scheduled lessons at the ranch. Schamber has incorporated some equine therapy in her lessons, which is a type of therapy that involves horses.

She recalled using the therapy with some adolescent boys from a group home. As a result of the riding, the boys channeled their energy into a positive outlet instead of expressing themselves in negative ways.

“People say ‘When do you relax?’ but this is how I relax,” Schamber said, gesturing to the barn around her with a laugh. “There’s something therapeutic about being in the barn for me.

Casually dressed in jeans, a red sweatshirt layered with a black vest and riding boots one day last week, Schamber projected an easy going personality, much like the atmosphere surrounding her barn. The 120,000 square-foot indoor space is lined with dusty metal rails with dark, grainy sand covering the ground.

When the doors to the entrance of the barn are open and it’s lightly drizzling, the rain mixes with the smell of horses to produce a peaceful aura.

While training at a recent Tuesday night’s lesson, Schamber called out commands for the horse and rider duos to complete. Phrases like, “Round the yellow barrel” and “Heels down, eyes up” could be heard across the room, interspersed with encouraging comments.

She believes there are many ways we can learn from horses. Since she has worked with a lot of horses that have been abused, it is evident horses feel things, according to Schamber. She sees their initial mistrust and gradually gains it through baby steps, similar to how human beings relate to one another.

Despite the possible setbacks in the beginning, nothing compares to the proud feeling Schamber has when she sees a student succeed. One recent example involved a horse who would not pick up his legs, but after time and practice, jumped the hay bales one foot taller than necessary to clear them.

“(Seeing it,) it was like a horse and human team, seeing how far they’ve come in that,” Schamber said. “I get to see that happen a lot, which is really cool about my job.”

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Dietary changes to help reduce the laminitis risk with your horse

Horses with equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) and pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID) are at a greater risk of developing laminitis than healthy horses. Dietary changes can help reduce that risk and are one of the most important aspects of keeping affected horses healthy.

Those changes are not necessarily cut and dried—they require planning, sourcing of proper feed products, and management shifts. Teresa Burns, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, an associate clinical professor of equine internal medicine at the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, in Columbus, reviewed how veterinarians can use nutrition and medication to help manage endocrinopathic laminitis cases at the 2017 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Nov. 17-21 in San Antonio, Texas.

“EMS is prevalent in equine populations, and we’re learning more about how to manage it,” she said. “PPID is also very common.”

All EMS horses and roughly 30% of PPID horses suffer from insulin dysregulation (ID, excessive insulin response to oral sugars, evident as postprandial hyperinsulinemia, fasting hyperinsulinemia, or insulin resistance based on when it occurs), she said. As such, managing ID can help reduce the likelihood of complications—such as laminitis—from arising.

Burns said nutritional EMS and ID management currently involves three steps:

  • Reducing dietary nonstructural carbohydrates (NSCs; essentially, the sugar and starch component of the horse’s diet);
  • Restricting pasture access until ID is under control; and
  • Restricting calorie consumption to encourage weight loss.

She offered practitioners several feeding tips to help achieve these goals.

Aim to keep the total dietary NSC concentration to 10% or less, and base the horse’s diet on low-NSC grass forage. Burns said that while there’s no clinical research to back up the 10% figure, anecdotal evidence suggests it’s an appropriate target. Achieve this by providing most of the horse’s calories via structural carbohydrates—the fibrous portion of plants. Hay typically constitutes the greatest percentage of structural carbs in a horse’s diet. Horses cannot digest structural carbohydrates without the help of billions of microorganisms in the hindgut. This microbial fermentation breaks down fiber into volatile fatty acids, a usable energy form. Nonstructural carbohydrates, on the other hand, are broken down into glucose, which can contribute to obesity and ID. It’s advisable to test hay prior to feeding to ensure low NSC levels; find more information on hay testing at TheHorse.com/19037.

Feed forage at 1 to 2% of body weight. Avoid going above, to encourage weight loss, or below, which could lead to gastrointestinal issues as well as boredom.
Avoid feeding cereal-grain-based concentrates. This means no sweet feeds, corn, oats, and the like, she said. If your horse needs more calories (not all ID horses are overweight), consider a commercially available low-NSC product (such as a high-protein ration balancer) or adding a fat source (such as oil), which produces a lower glycemic response than NSCs.

Reduce or eliminate pasture access, which can be unpredictably high in NSCs. Turn your horse out in a drylot with low-NSC hay access, if possible. If pasture turnout is essential, use a grazing muzzle or strip grazing (cordoning off small areas to graze at a time, using temporary fencing), or turn horses out in the early morning (pasture sugar content peaks in the late afternoon) for a short period.

Consider soaking hay. Burns said soaking hay for 30 to 60 minutes can leach some water-soluble carbohydrates out of hay, but it also removes some important minerals. She advised still starting with a low-NSC hay and working with a nutritionist or your veterinarian to ensure your horse’s mineral needs are being met.

Don’t rely on supplements. While some owners report that certain supplements seem to help their ID horses, Burns said most supplements aren’t backed by research. As such, she advised not basing your feeding program around a particular supplement.

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Equine Infectious Anemia – is your horse safe ?


Horses are beautiful and strong creatures, but they still depend on their owners to keep them healthy. One disease horse owners should be aware of is Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA), a virus that can destroy red blood cells, causing weakness, anemia, and death.

Michelle Coleman, assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, explained how the disease is spread.

“EIA is an infectious viral disease,” Coleman said. “The most common mode of transmission of EIA is by the transfer of virus-infected blood-feeding insects, such as horse flies. It can also be transmitted through the use of blood-contaminated syringes, surgical equipment, or the transfusion of infected blood or blood products. Although uncommon, transmission can also occur through the placenta in infected mares.”

There is no treatment, or safe and effective vaccine, available for this disease, so horses that are positive for EIA should be isolated from other horses. Most horses infected with EIA also do not show any signs of illness or disease, so it is important to constantly maintain good hygiene and disinfection principles, such as controlling insects in the horse’s environment.

If you plan on traveling with your horse, all horses shipped across state lines must be tested for EIA and have a negative result within 12 months of transport. Furthermore, all horses sold, traded, donated, or entering a sale or auction must test negative for the disease. Fortunately, regulatory control of EIA has made this disease relatively uncommon in the United States. read more


5 sound tips on wrapping and bandaging a #horse’s leg


At some point, nearly every horse will need a leg wrap or bandage. But an inappropriate bandage can cause as many problems as a well-applied one can prevent, warns Jeff Hall, senior equine technical services veterinarian at Zoetis animal health. So, before you reach for the nearest roll of VetRap, review these basics:

1. Evaluate the need. According to the American Association of Equine Practitioners, situations where leg bandages are beneficial to your horse include:
 providing support for tendons and ligaments during strenuous workouts
 preventing or reducing swelling after exercise or injury
 protecting legs from impact
 shielding wounds from contamination and assisting in healing

For more severe cases or if you are in doubt, it’s always wise to consult your veterinarian.

2. Keep your horse and yourself calm. If your horse is nervous, frightened or won’t cooperate, you’re not as likely to be cool and calm either. Your horse — not you — may need a little help to calm down.

That’s why Hall advises using a mild sedative. Dormosedan gel is a safe, effective product available by prescription from your veterinarian. It’s an FDA-approved oral sedative to be administered underneath the horse’s tongue via an easy-to-use dosing syringe. Note, however, it’s not labeled for use in a number of situations and equine health issues.

3. Now that all parties are “cool,” clean. “Its best if the leg is clean and dry prior to applying the bandage,” notes Hall. Shavings, straw, dirt and moisture can irritate the skin and increase the risk of a wound becoming infected.

4. Now comes the wrap. Wrap the leg evenly and firmly, but not too tightly. Use uniform pressure, as you want an even distribution of compression along the leg. Uneven tension in a bandage’s securing layers can potentially cause tendon damage.

Avoid incorporating frayed bits of padding that contain wrinkles or bunches. These can cause pressure points under a bandage. Overlap layers of bandage by 50% to avoid having edges of the wrap digging into the leg.

5. Be ready to quickly back off. For safety, avoid kneeling or sitting on the ground while bandaging and wrapping. Instead, crouch and always be ready to move out of the way if necessary. read more…

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A graceful horse finds her health


If you want to understand how animals flow in and out of the place where I live, you have to pay close attention.

In the past few months, our entourage has expanded, which puts us up to nine four-footed beings under the care of four humans, not always a great ratio.

The newest addition is a matronly Tennessee walking horse named Anna Grace.

She’s tall and proud and moves with that elegant gait that sets apart her breed. She is almost entirely black, with some small white spots on her back that I wouldn’t swear aren’t age-generated rather than genetics.

She is, after all, about 26 years old — or pretty darned old in human years.

When she arrived at Little Bit O’ Farm this spring, Anna Grace didn’t seem so tall and proud.

She was emaciated, her ribs showing in that manner that indicates sad neglect, and she seemed to drag along with a sadness that made you wonder if her next step might be into a grave.

Anna Grace was placed with us by those kind miracle workers at Red Dog Farm in Summerfield. They had rescued her from the neglectful owners, and she needed to be nursed to health.

Where better than at a home where adopted animals roam?

So she arrived with a regimen. We put her in a 2-acre paddock that gave her lots of grass and room to roam, and she was put on a diet that contained enough vitamins and calories to propel a race horse or an Olympic weight lifter.

Twice a day, in addition to all she grass she wanted to eat, Anna Grace was served a concoction of high-protein grain geared for senior horses mixed with something called beet pulp, about 5 pounds in all, and then that was saturated with fresh water before being served to her.

And she quickly became used to that diet.

Each morning and evening she made it a habit when she saw humans around to jog up the fence along the driveway to just across from the garage. She would neigh loudly and sometimes even sprint back and forth like a dog wanting his bowl refilled.

When she saw the mixing bucket come out and her personal caterer headed for the hose and feed bucket, she would sprint back in that direction, then spin and sprint back and forth a couple of times, again bucking and sometimes expelling some gas. Did I say she acted like a dog?

Now Anna Grace is a sweet and lovable horse who is used to being around humans, but don’t you go trying to pet her head while she is starting to eat. She wants to concentrate on her primary role in life, and if you touch her, she yanks up her head as if to rid it of marauding horse flies. Read more…

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Vaccinate horses against Hendra


EQUINE Veterinarians Australia is urging horse owners to vaccinate their horses against the deadly Hendra virus following three new confirmed cases in just four weeks.

President of EVA, Dr Ben Poole, said it’s critical that horses located in and around high-risk Hendra areas are vaccinated against Hendra virus.

“Another three horses in NSW have died from this preventable disease, which poses serious health risks not just to horses, but humans as well,” Dr Poole said.

From 1994, when the virus was first identified, to August 2017, there have been 60 known Hendra incidents resulting in the death of 102 horses.

During this period, Queensland has recorded 40 incidents and NSW has had 20.

“Every one of these horses that has died because of Hendra represents one more compelling reason for horse owners to vaccinate their horses,” Dr Poole said.

“The risk this disease poses to human health is also very real and it is important that the equine community remains vigilant in protecting horses and people from Hendra,” Dr Poole said.

Since the first outbreak was recorded in 1994, there have been seven confirmed cases in people, all of whom had significant contact with horse body fluids.

Of those who tested positive for Hendra, four sadly died from the disease, including two veterinarians.

Dr Poole said the vaccine is the most effective way to minimise the risk of Hendra virus. The vaccine is fully registered by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority.

“Vaccination is the most effective way to ensure high standards of horse health and welfare while also protecting veterinarians, horse handlers and owners from contracting this deadly virus.

“Hendra virus is impossible to diagnose without laboratory testing. The signs of this disease can be extremely variable. When your horse is vaccinated against Hendra virus, the probability of your horse having the disease is extremely low and therefore is more likely to receive timely and appropriate therapies.

“We need to remember that right across the country, there are thousands of equine events every year. These events bring together a large number of horses from a wide range of geographical locations, and this compounds the risks associated with Hendra virus infection if horses have not been vaccinated,” Dr Poole said. read more…

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