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Joint Supplements for Horses: Waste of Money or Do They Work?

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Horses are big, strong animals but are prone to develop joint problems and arthritis. Joint supplements are marketed as a way to make your animals feel better and be more comfortable, but do they work?

Joint supplements for horses can reduce symptoms of arthritis and other joint-related problems, but they’re not a cure for the disease. However, horse supplements are not all the same, and some don’t include effective ingredients and are a waste of money.

Horses. They are a joy to ride and an even greater joy to watch in motion. Naturally, we all want good health for them. In particular, we want their joints to stay limber and their legs to remain strong.

Picture of an old horse with a possible joint problem

As a horse grows, age and use can take a toll on its body, and one of the first things to get impacted are its joints. In this guide, I discuss joint supplements for horses – whether they work, which is the best one on the market, and how long it can take to see results.

Please note that this post is not a medical guide; I simply offer a broad perspective on joint supplements for your horse.

Do joint supplements for horses really work?

Horse supplements are a multi-million-dollar industry in the U.S., and there are literally hundreds of over-the-counter horse joint care supplements available; you can buy them on the Internet or at any tack and feed store.

But many people question their effectiveness. There is some evidence that joint supplements may help horses with arthritis, but it’s unclear whether they work for other purposes like injury prevention or performance enhancement.

What do horse joint supplements contain?

Almost all horse joint supplements contain three vital ingredients

  • Chondroitin
  • Glucosamine
  • MSM – Methyl-sulfonyl-methane

Scientists have discovered that as horses get older, the production of chondroitin and glucosamine slows down. There is a theory that feeding supplements with these ingredients could reduce inflammation and slow down the wear and tear of the cartilage.

MSM, a sulfur-containing compound with the same exact goal: it helps slow down wear and tear of cartilage, improve mobility, and prevents pain to better your horse’s quality of life.

So, do horse joint supplements work?

While horse joint supplement usage is prevalent, there is still a lot of debate in equine veterinary circles; some vets have found success with certain products while others don’t support their use at all.

One issue is that horses have a very different intestinal tract than humans, making it challenging to apply joint supplement studies to equines. Even though some human-specific supplements seem to be effective in general, there isn’t enough research specific to horses’ to give us an answer one way or the other.

Adding to the uncertainty is many of these supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration for the very fact that they are considered as food supplements and not ‘drugs.’

To summarize

  • It is doubtful that your horse’s performance will improve dramatically after you begin feeding joint supplements.
  • Having said that, some horse owners have reported a slight improvement in mobility, range of motion, and quality of life in their horses with degenerative joint disease after beginning certain joint supplements.
  • Many owners continue feeding joint supplements in the hope that it will slow down the wear of cartilage.
  • Some horse owners use horse joint supplements as a preventive measure to ward off degenerative joint disease. Still, there are no scientific studies that show supplements are effective at preventing joint degeneration.

So what is the best joint supplement for older horses?

I’ve used various joint supplements and in different forms, liquid, powder, and wafers. I haven’t found one type to be clearly better than another. A lot has to do with your horses and how they consume and react to the supplement.

The best joint supplement for older horses includes various ingredients to support cartilage, connective tissue, and joints. Some essential components to look for are glucosamine sulfate with chondroitin sulfate, MSM, and vitamin C.

You should supplement some older horse’s diets with calcium and phosphorus to help maintain the health of bones and teeth. So what is the best joint supplement for older horses?

That question will depend on your needs or goals for your horse, but it’s important to research all options before you decide so you can find the product that works best!

My favorite liquid joint supplement is Acti Flex Cox Veterinary Lab Joint Compound, and my favorite powder is Manna Pro Rapid Flex. My overall favorite joint supplement is Majesty’s Flex Wafers.

Majesty’s Flex wafers is a popular choice because of the following reasons:

First of all, it combines the holy trinity of joint care: MSM, glucosamine, and chondroitin. Although there are no studies that these ingredients improve mobility and reduce wear-and-tear of the cartilage, many horse owners swear by them.

It also contains Yucca extracts, a powerful anti-inflammatory herb that can relieve pain and inflammation in horses with degenerative joint disease. It has helped many a gelding relieve joint stiffness, walk with ease, and reduce debilitating pain.

Third, and most importantly, these wafer-based supplements are very easy to administer, and even owners of multiple horses can easily separately feed the ones that really need the supplements. The wafers reduce waste which you often see in other food additive supplements.

Pros

  • Very little waste – one wafer per horse which can be mixed with individual feed
  • Protects and repairs damaged cartilage
  • Improved joint mobility
  • It also improves hair, skin, and coat

Cons

  • Some picky horses would not eat it.
  • A few horses gained a lot of nervous energy with them due to the molasses and cornmeal
  • Price changes.
Picture of a woman and an old horse

What is the best anti-inflammatory for horses?

We recommend the Absorbine ButeLess Support for Inflammatory Response.

Absorbine Bute-Less pellets contain Devil’s Claw, Yucca, and Vitamin B12 as the primary ingredients. These provide powerful inflammation-relief to horses without being harsh on their stomachs.

Even lame horses or horses with founder/laminitis were able to show signs of improvement after taking this supplement for just a week!

Horse owners recommend keeping Bute less on hand to quickly administer it in the unfortunate event a horse is injured. It quickly relieves pain and inflammation and helps get your horse back to normal in a short time.

Pros

  • Easy to feed
  • Quick results
  • Gentle on horse’s tummy

Cons

How long do joint supplements take to work?

The time it takes for horse joint supplements to show results vary from supplement to supplement. This is mainly due to the difference in their ingredients.

I owned an older horse that developed stiffness and pain in her stifle joint. She never got well enough to ride but did improve and began moving around better after about six weeks on supplements.

Most horse owners also find that certain supplements work much better in reducing pain and improving mobility than others. These differences are primarily due to the quantity of the anti-inflammatory ingredients used.

In general, any horse joint supplement that you select must contain the three ingredients mentioned above because these ingredients work better in combination with each other.

In addition to Glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM, you can also look for supplements with ingredients like collagen, vitamin C, and hyaluronic acid, as well as herbs like devil’s claw Boswellia and yucca.

All these work in tandem to protect your horse’s joints and provide building blocks to produce healthy tissue. With consistent use for at least one month, you might notice a lot less ‘cricking’ sound from your horse’s joints!

Please note that no two horses are the same. What works for one may not necessarily work for another. That is why it is essential to consult a vet from time to time to tweak the dosage, assess the joint’s condition, and then take the necessary steps to provide your horse with the best possible pain relief.

Key takeaways: Do joint supplements really work, or are they a waste of money?

Preliminary research shows that the combination of MSM, glucosamine, and chondroitin along with Hyaluronic acid, Vitamin C, and herbs like Yucca and Devil’s Claw could prevent further degradation of joint and cartilage wear-and-tear in old horses. Young horses might also benefit from these supplements as they have preventive and protective effects on their joints.

However, product selection is important since no two supplements are the same. Besides, what works for one horse may not necessarily work for another.

It is important to note that the FDA does not regulate horse joint supplements as they come under the category of nutraceuticals or food supplements and not drugs. Also, we definitely need more trials and studies to put the debate to rest whether horse joint supplements really work or if they are a waste of money.

FAQs on Horse Joint Supplements

What is the best joint supplement for horses with arthritis?

Researchers found the best supplement for horses with arthritis contains glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, MSM, and Omega-3 fatty acids to reduce the symptoms associated with arthritis in horses. Majesty’s Flex Wafers and Formula 707 Daily Fresh Packs Equine Supplements are both good choices.

How can I help my horse with arthritis?

You can help your arthritic horse by keeping it at a healthy weight, inspecting its feet regularly, feeding a joint supplement that includes glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, MSM, and Omega-3 fatty acids, and incorporate range of motion exercises into its daily routine.

Should I give my horse joint supplements?

Before giving your horse joint supplements please speak to your vet about whether they are safe for your horse. Pregnant mares and horses with ulcerative colitis should not be given some supplements because certain ingredients can be harmful in these conditions.

Are horse joint supplements a waste of money?

If you buy the wrong supplements, they might not provide any relief to your horse and, worse, could cause nutritional imbalances in the animal. This can result in a waste of money!