Sound Advice for Choosing your Horse’s Joint Supplement

Feed, Equine Nutrition

5 min read: The Essentials & Why

By, Steffany Dragon, MS, CEMT 

Is your head reeling from trying to decide which joint product is best for your horse and what you can afford? You are not alone! The market is flooded with them because unlike other supplements that may be duplicated in a nice quality feed, ingredients that directly target your horse’s joints usually are not. 

The good news! If your horse is already on a joint supplement, pat yourself on the back because horses from every stage of life, in any discipline for competition or pleasure will benefit. We often start later than we should, adding a joint supplement to our horse’s diet with the intent to make them comfortable, give them relief from any pain, discomfort or lameness, in addition to decreasing any disease progression in the joint(s). Osteoarthritis (OA), for example, affects millions of horses in the USA and is the most common cause of equine lameness. It truly should be on our radar to try to prevent. 

First, let’s go over some easy basic principles that apply to most every situation. This article addresses joint nutraceuticals that can be added to feed as supplements. Injections and topicals are for another day! 

The Basics On Joint Supplements: 

-should be fed consistently, daily for results. 

-clinical studies often find the most significant improvement when the horse has been on a joint supplement consistently for 6-8 months. 

-some liquid and proprietary granular, pellet, or powder forms of joint ingredients can increase absorption time and rate (through mucosal absorption in mouth, gums, etc and 

through fat) so look for mention of optimized absorption…sometimes the GI track can be tricky. 

-Ever notice how a human joint supplement or even Tylenol® or Advil® may help you but not your friend? That is because the source of inflammation, on a cellular level, may vary between you. Same with your 4- legged partner. Chances are most quality products on the market are delivering some level of joint protection…it is just your job to be consistent, observe, give the supplement a 60 day trial unless it advertises otherwise and know while making a decision which product to stick with, you are helping all the while! 

It is helpful to have an idea which area of the joint may be most affected or problematic. Having a lameness exam from your veterinarian for acute problems is highly recommended and most supplements can be used in addition to any injections or medicine prescribed. Hopefully you are reading this article before a problem is advanced, but supplements can help either way. 

Lets briefly mention the 4 stages of OA progression since different ingredients benefit corresponding components of joints. 


1. Inflammation in the inner lining of the joint, also known as the Synovial membrane (most people are familiar with synovial fluid that ‘lubricates’ the joint)

2. Inflammation present in the Synovial membrane plus some damage to joint cartilage

3. Chronic Synovial membrane inflammation and severe damage to the joint cartilage

4. Chronic Synovial membrane inflammation, severe damage to the joint cartilage, and cartilage loss (bone on bone) 

Effective Joint supplements are manufactured with ingredients to protect, prevent and potentially repair. Here we offer as concise a description of the ingredients as possible. 

Glucosamine HCL-(precursor to glycosaminoglycans) an amino-monosaccharide that is a precursor for the synthesis of structural components of joints such as cartilage, collagen, and synovial fluid. Glucosamine HCl yields 1.7 times more active glucosamine than glucosamine sulfate. Glucosamine is conducive to absorption from the digestive tract.

Chondroitin Sulfate– an important component of joint cartilage and alone, to aids the joints resistance to compression. Look for a lower weight, protect and optimized chondroitin sulfate, as it is not absorbed as well in its original, larger contribute to form joint health. 

Hyaluronic Acid– a major component of synovial fluid within the joint and coats each cartilage cell. It prevents damage to the cartilage from inflammation. 

MSMMethylsulfonylmethane. Did you know it is a naturally occurring organosulfur compound in the same family as dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO)? It is a white powder, whereas DMSO is liquid at room temperature. It serves as an intracellular antioxidant protecting cells making up joint components. Can easily be added for about $14 for 2 lb powder & sold most places. 

Cetyl Myristoleate (CM)- a unique fatty acid developed for oral consumption in nutritional joint support formulas. (CM) is thought to reduce the release of inflammatory cytokines and has improved horses’ lameness scores and response to flexion tests in studies. Study findings concluded that horses administered cetyl myristoleate improved significantly more than the placebo group in AAEP lameness and that oral administration of CM had beneficial effects on horses with naturally occurring OA. i In fact, I am currently applying CM cream to my hands and wrists as it significantly helps with discomfort from typing! 

Other ingredients that have shown benefits by preventing cartilage breakdown and protecting joint components from damage due to inflammation are: Resveratrol, other Omega 3 Fatty Acids, Yucca, Boswellia, ASU (which also helps repair cartilage by stimulating collagen synthesis), hydrolyzed collagen and Vitamin C. It can get quite technical since one horse’s inflammation may be caused by increased prostaglandins, for example, while another horse’s inflammation is from leukotrienes. By trial and error you can observe which product benefits your horse most. As Grant Miller, DVM, of Equine Solutions, in Petaluma, California stated, whether among groups of people, horses, or dogs “No inflammatory profile is exactly the same between animals.” ii 

Whatever you choose to provide comfort, healing or relief for your equine partner, we congratulate you on your dedication to your horse’s health and hope this information will make the process easier and more effective! 

i ii What’s in Your Horse’s Joint Supplement? 

Posted by Kristen M. Janicki, MS, PAS. Feb 18, 2019