Something that all horse owners are likely to need to consider at some point is what to feed or supplement their horse with as they begin to feel their age and need help to keep moving and feeling their best. There are multiple joint supplements on the market which claim to help keep your horse going by optimising their movement, but what exactly are the structures on the horse which require supplementation? This article aims to provide a brief overview of joints and mobility; the types of horse supplements offered to help and some of the more common ingredients.
Joints & supporting tissues
Firstly let’s look at joints; a joint is any point in the body at which bones, cartilage or both join, these can provide movement such as in the hock, which is also surrounded by synovial fluid to aid mobility, or they may be a fixed join such as those in the pelvis. There are many different types of joints and ways of grouping them; this is something that will not be covered in this video, but details can be found in anatomy text books.
In order for the mobile joints to move there must be strong and healthy supporting structures. These are the tendons and ligaments. Tendons and ligaments are similar in that they both contain collagen and elastin and are in the body to ensure that joints are able to move efficiently and safely.
Tendons attach muscle to bone, providing the anchor so that when a muscle contracts the joint is moved. Despite the way they are described, tendons are in fact an extension of a muscle rather than a completely separate component. Tendons are relatively inelastic in comparison to the muscles and are made up of crimped fibres which allow for stretch.
Ligaments are fairly similar to tendons in structure, but differ in their function. Ligaments attach bone to bone, thereby providing structure to a joint, preventing movement in the wrong direction and hyperflexion.
Another tissue group which cannot be ignored when looking at joints is the muscles. Muscles are the point at which movement is initiated. There are a few different types of muscles, but we will not be covering them in this video. In order for movement to occur, a muscle needs to contract, as this happens, the tendon at the end of the muscle will pull on the bone to which it is attached, thereby moving the joint. The ligaments are in place then to insure that the joint is not pulled in a way that it is not designed to be. When the original muscle relaxes, a counteracting muscle with then contract to move the joint back to its original position.
In order for any system of the body to work at its best, it must be provided with the correct nutrition. When looking at mobility the key tissues requiring nutrition are: bones, cartilage, tendons, ligaments and muscles.
Mobility Vs joint
A key point to remember when looking for a supplement is that there is a difference between a joint and a mobility supplement. A joint supplement will only address the nutrients required immediately around the joint, whereas a mobility supplement will also be taking care of all the soft tissues involved in movement. At EquiFeast we believe that there is little value in providing nutrition for the immediate joint if the surrounding soft tissues are not being provided with the same level of nutritional care. This is why we include a spectrum of nutrients in all of our mobility supplements and do not supply any joint only supplements.
Common nutrients for mobility
When speaking to any rider about the nutrients required for mobility, they will very easily be able to list glucosamine, chondroitin and MSM. But what exactly is it that these nutrients do? And are they the only nutrients needed to maintain your horse’s mobility?
Glucosamine is used within the body to produce molecules called glycoaminoglycans or GAGs and glycoproteins. GAGs and glycoproteins are required by the body as the building blocks for multiple tissues involved in movement including the cartilage, tendons, ligaments and synovial fluid. Glucosamine is not just a popular supplement for horses, it is also often recommended as a supplement to people.
It is often recommended that chondroitin is taken in conjunction with glucosamine in both horses and humans, again to help with cartilage, bones, tendons and ligaments. Chondroitin is primarily used for its ability to help cartilage maintain its elasticity by retaining water.
The final common ingredient we will look at is MSM. MSM is an organic form of sulphur which can be hugely beneficial when supplemented to horses which have mobility issues or are just getting older. MSM is also able to function as an antioxidant, a key nutrient group when looking to supplement the mobility system as a whole, rather than just the immediate joint.
Antioxidants are a group of nutrients that include Vitamin E, Selenium, MSM and Vitamin C, and are an essential part of all diets. The role of antioxidants is to neutralise free-radicals in the body. Free-radicals are produced as a result of essential cell functions, with higher levels being produced at times of stress, such as during exercise, and are therefore unavoidable. This means that antioxidants need to be included in the diet in order to take care of them and to maintain healthy muscle tissue. However, it has been found that in order to provide the best outcomes possible, a broad spectrum of antioxidants are required.
EquiFeast can help
EquiFeast are proud to say that glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM and antioxidants, as well as essential oils, are a standard part of all our mobility supplements. This enables our products to provide the best all round care possible for your horse’s joints and supporting tissues, based on current theories.
EquiFeast have also recently begun to see the benefits of supplementing chelated calcium to your horse’s diet in order to maximise muscle function. Calcium is involved in the contraction of muscles and must be released in order for the muscle to relax again. Based on anecdotal reports from customers in both the United Kingdom and Australia, stating that horses on our chelated calcium products are showing a greater ability to relax and work through their backs, EquiFeast believe that the chelated calcium helps the mechanisms of the muscles work more efficiently. Sadly this is just speculation at this stage, but EquiFeast are working hard to get a greater level of scientific backing for their theories. Keep an eye on our Facebook page for updates on our progress.