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Glucosamine for horses, in the UK, is considered to be one of the best horse joint supplements. For horse joint health, this quality ingredient packs a punch. But what is glucosamine and what are the benefits of it for horses?
Glucosamine is a precursor for glycosaminoglycans, an essential molecule used in the process of forming protein bonds for the strength and repair of tissue. These molecules play an essential part in cartilage turnover, helping to maintain the structure’s integrity.
Glucosamine plays a key role in the maintenance of a type of cartilage called articular cartilage, found in both horses and humans. Articular cartilage covers the ends of bones, where they come together to form joints. Healthy articular cartilage is crucial for smooth, functioning joints for movement and performance.
Glucosamine for horses is an indispensable supplement, especially for older horses and those with intense workloads, aiding maintenance and recovery of joint tissue.
The effects of glucosamine supplementation on horse health are highly regarded for function and performance. The most pronounced effects of glucosamine supplements for horses are;
As glucosamine is a precursor for glycosaminoglycans, assessing the levels of this molecule in the body can help to determine healthy cartilage turnover; the higher the levels of glycosaminoglycans, the healthier the joints.
Supplementing with glucosamine can cause a rise in glycosaminoglycan levels, with this high level being maintained for up to three months after administration. The ability for the horse’s body to be able to maintain these high levels of the cartilage-health molecule has led researchers to believe that glucosamine may provide joint protection. In addition, by acting to increase cartilage turnover, this can help the body to adapt quicker and more effectively to increased workloads.
Glucosamine can be used intermittently in a horse’s diet and still reap results. Researchers have suggested that a ‘three-month-on, three-month-off’ cycle of glucosamine supplementation can be effective.
Another benefit of supplementing a horse’s diet with glucosamine is decreased joint pain, meaning it may be particularly useful for horses suffering from age-related joint changes or those working at high intensities.
A recent study examined the effect of glucosamine in horses with mild osteoarthritis; an age-related disease of the joint where articular cartilage begins to breakdown, causing pain, stiffness, and swelling. In the study, researchers found that when the horses had glucosamine included in their diets, there was an improvement in flexion tests, decreased joint inflammation, and a decrease in lameness score.
In addition, the horses supplemented with glucosamine showed improvement in the diagnostic images of the affected joints, suggesting that the pain was decreased due to an enhancement in the tissue health of the joint.
Glucosamine has been shown to increase limb range of motion in horses, with one scientific study observing increased length and range of movement in the stride.
Therefore, supplementing with glucosamine may give horses a performance-enhancing boost. For example, the fact that ‘increased duration of swing in the stride’ was noted with glucosamine supplementation means, not only is this aiding power generation during the stride and when jumping, but your cumulative marks for ‘suppleness’ in dressage tests could also increase.
As well as assisting with stride flexibility, glucosamine could also help to aid learning and safety when riding. If horses are in pain during ridden work, it can cause adverse behaviour. Horses may begin to learn that pain behaviour helps to reduce the feelings of pain, as this behaviour may result in the rider reducing work intensity and effectively rewarding the negative behaviour. In addition, riding a horse through pain reduces the ability of a horse to take on new commands.
Every horse joint supplement has different properties and different dosages, due to their unique chemical make-up.
However, current glucosamine supplements are marketed with an average dose of 10g per day, or 0.3g per kilogram of body weight.
In older horses, receiving a 10g dose of glucosamine, over 12 weeks, showed effects such as increased joint range of motion and increased stride length. Meanwhile, supplementing with 10g of glucosamine in younger horses has been observed to decrease inflammation in joints. Therefore, whatever age a horse, they could reap performance, comfort, and health benefits from glucosamine supplementation.
However, when buying a supplement, it is always recommended to read the manufacturers guidelines on dosage. Some supplements will contain significantly lower or higher levels of glucosamine, so will need to be supplemented accordingly for the desired effect.
Glucosamine can be administered as a;
Powdered glucosamine is the most common form of administration. As an easy-to-use option for owners, the powdered version can be found packaged with a dedicated dosage scoop. Combining well with hard feed, most owners will have no problem disguising the taste and appearance of powdered glucosamine for fussy eaters.
However, some owners with very fussy horses do prefer to use a liquid-form glucosamine supplement. This can be easily syringed into the horse’s mouth and is a useful way for owners to carefully manage intake of the supplement. However, it can be a difficult administration method for those who struggle with oral medication. Therefore, liquid glucosamine can also be added to hard feed with no visual appearance for suspicious horses.
Glucosamine tablets for horses are not as readily available on the equestrian market. Some owners find tablet forms of glucosamine the easiest way to ensure their horse receives glucosamine supplementation in their diet. They are easily hidden in large treats, such as apples.
At Pilot Equine we offer Freedom, a joint care supplement for all horses containing human grade ingredients, including glucosamine, along with a range of other beneficial ingredients, in the form of an easy-to-use formula. Just add the correct dose to your feed and you’re away! You can check out the full Pilot Equine range of supplements at www.pilotequine.co.uk.
For more information about what key ingredients should be included in an effective horse joint supplement, as well as an explanation of the benefits of each, please see 'Equine Joint Supplements: What Ingredients Should I Be Looking For?'